It's been a couple of years since Avram Fefer (San Francisco, CA 1964) was last in The Spirit Room but it didn't take long before he was engaging me about another project. While this was being conceived and coordinated, Avram continued other musical activities including his duo association with pianist Bobby Few, an ambient-electric groove quartet called Squelch, an on-going trio collaboration with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Igal Foni, along with various involvements with other artistic disciplines.
On this session it's all-acoustic and marked by the pairing of two of the most dynamicstring players in improvising music: Tomas Ulrich (1958, Columbus, OH) and Ken Filiano (1952, Patchogue, NY). Tomas' role is different than on most of his other CIMP outings in that, for this date, his lines are more specifically designed along the lines of another horn, often playing unison to Avram's reeds. Tomas is a great solo voice and it's a treat to hear it up front. I had spoken to Tomas a couple of weeks prior to this date and, in passing, he expressed a real enthusiasm for this quartet, noting that "the music is really amounting to something"; a fact made obvious as I listened to the warm-up/sound check.
Also apparent during the check was the growing maturity and substance of both Avram's playing and music. This guy is a force and listening to his expansiveness easily suggests hearing him in other settings and set-ups. In Avram, Ken, Jay Rosen (Philadelphia, PA, 1961),Tomas, and the group as a unit there exudes a great musicality and inventiveness and the makings for a great concert experience. This was all apparent through 3 hours of sound checks and warm-up, perhaps the most prolonged we have had to date. When all was ready, it took several false starts beforea full take was successfully completed (Shepp in Wolves' Clothing).
They played into the early hours of the morning doing multiple takes, maintaining inspiration while battling various human and mechanical demons (a touch of excited feedback can be heard, rather in concert to the music, on Shepp...and Gates) and a growing fatigue. One must appreciate the dedication of musicians who emotionally commit themselves to a great solo only to have it unissued due to a weakness of the whole, and then recommit repeatedly in creative sprints because you don't know which will be the keeper and becauseyour artistic commitment/integrity demands nothing less. It's not true of all musicians, but it is true of the best, and these guys are among the best. There's no phoning in their parts, only an unrelenting commitment. Listeners who have the opportunity might find it instructive to witness rehearsals or recording sessions where multiple and incomplete takes pile up; it can be very insightful as to the quality and inventiveness of individual musicians/artists. Rarely at CIMP sessions am I not in awe of the commitment of these artists and in respect of the creativity they manage to summon again and again in often discouraging circumstances.
Other things to appreciate are the skill and discipline in a non-featured role, as on Love Crept In (Again) which presents a difficult tempo and dynamic for a drummer. Dig how Jay, with absolute concentration and presence, almost invisibly but immeasurably helps the seamlessness and success of the whole. And, while that impressed me, I was also inspired by Ken's bass work and the mounting joy of spending, by this time, some 8 hours with the very real pleasures of Avram's compositions. (Later, Tomas and Ken also put forth compositions oftheir own.)
The rewards of working with this group are cumulative, sometimes made all the greater by the frustrations of the individual parts. It's my hope that the more perfect part of the imperfect whole translates to a moving concert for you, the listener. If it does, then the connection between artists, producer, and listener is successful and complete.
Robert D. Rusch - April 8, 2003