Garrison Fewell/Gianni Mimmo

Flawless Dust
Long Song Records LSRCD 138/2016

By Ken Waxman

Best known as a teacher and author of guitar instruction manuals, a busman’s holiday for guitarist Garrison Fewell, who died at 61, a year ago this month, involved recording challenging sessions with players ranging from George Cables to John Tchicai. Like an activist such as W.E.B. Du Bois. who became progressively more radical as he aged, Fewell seemed headed on the same path. Flawless Dust, his first posthumously released CD, consists of nine knotty and reductionist tracks, improvised by the guitarist and Italian soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo, whose concepts widen the hairline fissure where jazz and experimental music meet.

Despite – or perhaps because – of teaching at Berklee College of Music for 33 years, Fewell was open to many modes of expression. There are no “songs” per se. on these tracks that range from barely one minute to almost 14, as the two probe surgeon-like under the thematic skin to expose more trenchant interchanges. Mimmo, who previously has matched wits with the likes of cellist Daniel Levin and electronics maven Lawrence Casserley, challenges the guitarist by unexpectedly dribbling delicate pastoral timbres or spraying clotted textures all over the shorter pieces. In response the guitarist uses pinched strings or ringing strums to figuratively pour cold water on the saxophonist’s excesses, while outlining reciprocal harmonies.

With mountain-climber-like resolution the two ascend and descend from the CD’s centerpiece “A Floating Caravan”. The lengthiest duet in the disc organically redefines intense blending, as spidery string crawls and angled reed exhalation gives way to buttressed blowing and echoing strokes, only to climax with a dual unbroken line that is soothing and substantial.

A departure from his larger ensemble and more mainstream efforts, Flawless Dust confirms that Fewell could hold his own in the most demanding situations; and that Mimmo was an enabling collaborator.

Tracks: Flawless Dust; Song; Coherent; News from Beyond; Struggente; Other Song; A Floating Caravan; Other Chat; Grainy Fabric

Personnel: Gianni Mimmo: soprano saxophone; Garrison Fewell: guitar and percussion

—For The New York City Jazz Record July 2016