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Influenced by iconoclasts such as Harry Partch and John Cage, while cognizant of Anthony Braxton’s accomplishments as a solo artist, saxophonist and electrical engineer, James Fei finds interest in tearing apart and rebuilding motifs, pursuing odd phrasings, half-tones, micro tones and other particulars. Perhaps his interest in engineering serves as the foundation for trying to determine – what makes things work? On Solo Works Fei guides the listener through nine pieces while performing solo on soprano sax, alto sax, bass clarinet and bass saxophone as the pieces are aptly titled, “for soprano saxophone”, “for alto saxophone”...etc. Mr Fei narrates or provides background for each composition through insightful and well-written documentation on a per track basis. What may seem to some as being improvisations these are actually well conceived compositions as Mr Fei explores variances in pitch, dynamics, “accented noises”, “chromatic alterations” along with a myriad of concepts and abstractions. The overall experience is certainly thought provoking and perhaps a good reference point or even study guide for serious students of woodwind instruments. While this writer is an advocate and staunch supporter of free-jazz and experimental music, some of the compositions are a bit sterile or steely edged; however, we believe Fei accomplishes his goals in striking fashion.
Solo Works succeeds from a technical standpoint; however, this may not be something you’ll be spinning on your CD player on a daily basis.... With that said, we honor Fei’s gutsy determination and fortitude, as Mr Fei is a man who believes in his capabilities while executing his thoroughly fascinating ideas through his analytical aspirations, technical acumen and intriguing philosophies .........* * * ½