- Avram Fefer / Eriv Revis / Chad Taylor: Eliyahu (Not Two, 2011) - Even though I've known of these guys for a while, I somehow missed their previous album Ritual on Clean Feed (2009), and so I came almost unprepared for this gem of a record. Well, not entirely. Saxophonist Avram Fefer has played with several heavy hitters over the years, but I became especially curious after his work on Adam Lane's fantastic Ashcan Rantings (also Clean Feed) from last year. Eric Revis has played bass with the likes of Branford Marsalis and J.D. Allen, but has lately popped up in ensembles that lean even more towards the rampant sides of jazz, having played a central role in Tarbaby as well as backing up Peter Brötzmann during this year's Vision Fest. Drummer Chad Taylor is perhaps the one I know best of these three, as he has worked with several Chicago musicians of note, and particularly the ever interesting trio Digital Primitves, with Cooper-Moore and Assif Tsahar. The music Fefer, Revis and Taylor has created together on Eliyahu is enthralling, lithe yet groovy, bouncy and emotionally rich. Much of the material here is based around seemingly simple melodic lines, themes or rhythmic patterns that they expand upon, usually while at least one of the trio keeps the originally stated theme going, with the others joining in again later on. The opening, Taylor penned "Song For Dyani", for example, centers around Revis' repeated, fleet-footed melodic bass pattern, a pattern he sustains throughout the tune, and plays with such effortlessness that you cannot but admire his stamina, technique and wonderful sense of rhythm. Taylor's drumming supports the groove, but also adds a bit of punch. Fefer starts the tune with a different melodic line on top of Revis', occasionally dropping in on a note or two, but generally staking out his own course, until towards the end, when Taylor starts to accentuate Revis' bass line, and Fefer joins in. "Song For Dyani" is among the fastest pieces on the album, only the rough 'n' tumble of "City Life" is more energetic. The rest of the material flows at significantly slower tempo, but remains true to it's emotional scope. There is a quality to this music -- the combination of flexibility, groove, keen sense of melody and musical interaction -- that reminds a bit of Air. That's high praise coming from me. When you add that they have some lovely melodic material at the center of things, this has the makings of becoming one of the highlights of the year. 9*
* Grades are tentative, based on three or four listens, though quite often a few more. Much of the writing is done during listens, and should be considered notes rather than final reviews.
Eliyahu is available at SquidCo (link) and other well stock jazz merchants.