Brûlez les meubles

March 22, 2023

Tour de Bras TDB 90058cd/microcidi030

Avram Fefer Quartet
Juba Lee
Clean Feed CF 603 CD

Two expanded ensembles explore the variables of creative music in a quartet setting of two strings, percussion and reeds. One, Juba Lee, by New York’s Avram Fefer, ups the ante by adding guitarist Marc Ribot to the multi-reedist’s usual trio of bassist Eric Revis and drummer Chad Taylor. An ad hoc affair, Tardif is also a tale of three cities since the band features Sherbrooke guitarist Louis Beaudoin-de la Sablonnière, electric bassist Éric Normand from Rimouski, Quebec, plus Montrealers alto saxophonist/flutist Jean Derome and percussionist John Hollenbeck. While the others are embedded in the province’s vibrant Musique Actuelle scene, Hollenbeck, an American who teaches at McGill university, has moved in the same creative music circles as the players on the other CD, who have worked with everyone from Branford Marsalis to Bobby Few.

Quieter with drum rattles, steady but restrained bass plucks and frequently melded guitar runs and alto sax slurs, Tardif only seems to hit its stride with “A jazz tune I hope”, a Bluesy andante tune by Albert Mangelsdorf. With variations of the head constantly returning, the piece evolves with simple guitar fingering, thin slurps and discordant yowls from Derome’s sax, and is finally defined and concluded by Hollenback’s press rolls. The quartet can also raise the temperature, as on the concluding “J’en ai connu d’autres”. Based around a pounding bass line and Latinesque drum rumbles, the tandem guitar-sax interface leads to movement up the scale matched with a biting reed interlude. Other tracks feature slurred fingering and Rock affiliations from the guitarist; shuffles, cymbal accents and rim shots from the drummer; and doits and honks from the saxophonist. Derome only switches to the bass flute for warmer and more mellow treatments. This is especially true on the extended “Hiboux”, where fluttering transverse vibrations maintain the horizontal flow. Normand’s insistent pulse add ballast to harmonies introduced by guitar strums, with each part maintained and connected to the end.

Harmonies aren’t lacking on Juba Lee, with the quartet’s nine tunes invested with a hearty helping of foot-tapping swing. Besides Ribot’s exhibition of ringing flanges and upward twangs, Revis’ stable pulsations and Fefer’s reed bites and peeps, Taylor paces the tunes with positioned beats, some of which take on Native American or African echoes. The group begins on an appropriate high note with “Showtime”. On top of slurred guitar fingering and backbeat vibrations, the saxophonist manages some near R&B blowing, detours into altissimo and then a brief quote from “Bag’s Groove”. Ribot expands the interaction still further later on with “Say You’re Sorry”. His responsive vamps with Fefer causes the saxophonist to switch from boudoir-like reed burbling to snarls and clarion buzzes. These variations are repeated with tremolo string asides from the guitarist that, on a track like “Love Is In The Air”, uses clanks and cracks to also move the alto saxophonist out of the balladic mode to match the excitement with clarion split tones. The only time Fefer take out his bass clarinet is on the concluding “Sweet Fifteen (For G.T.)”, dedicated to his late friend Greg Tate. With Ribot on acoustic guitar, the straight-ahead threnody is defined moderately until double-tongued trills descend to final chalumeau. However the most descriptive performance occurs on “Brother Ibrahim”. Although designed to hymn universal peace, the way it evolves appears to link it both to South African kwela and Stax-Volt instrumentals. Certainly the chunky rhythm guitar output could fit on a Memphis soul session, while pennywhistle-like airy peeps suggests Township Jive and another Ibrahim, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, Bolstered with drum paradiddles and an unvarying bass line, the tune offers rhythmic sophistication as well as a message. Using the quartet configuration in unique fashions, each group creates a notable and complementary way to get its message across.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Tardif: 1. Balade Stoïque 2. A jazz tune I hope 3. Malice 4. Journée pédagogique 5. Maiange 6. Fantômes et roses 7. Hiboux 8. Dialogue tardif 9. J’en ai connu d’autres

Personnel: Tardif: Jean Derome (alto saxophone and bass flute); Louis Beaudoin-de la Sablonnière (guitar); Éric Normand (electric bass); and John Hollenbeck (drums and percussion)

Track Listing: Juba: 1. Showtime 2. Bedouin Dream 3. Sky Lake 4. Juba Lee 5. Brother Ibrahim 6. Love Is In The Air 7. Gemini Tim 8. Say You’re Sorry 9. Sweet Fifteen (For G.T.)

Personnel: Juba: Avram Fefer (alto and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet); Marc Ribot (guitar); Eric Revis (bass) and Chad Taylor (drums)