Text by James Keepnews:
Avram Fefer’s Rivers on Mars features Avram on alto saxophone, bass clarinet, and flute; drummer Greg Gonzalez (from the play Fela! on Broadway); Sun Ra alum On Ka’a Davis on electric guitar and effects, and Burnt Sugar frontman Greg ‘Ironman’ Tate on loops, beats, and virtual mayhem.
Mr. Fefer says: “This is an ongoing project based on improvised electric dance music. Groovy, abstrakt, psychedelic soundscapes…..”
No cover, donations requested. Biographical details on the artists follow below.
Avram Fefer is an American saxophonist, composer and bandleader, currently residing in New York City. He has been performing and recording since 1990, with eleven album releases as a leader and many more as a sideman. He has performed with world-class musicians throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and enjoys collaborations with creative artists of all sorts, including poets, dancers, visual artists, DJ’s, and digital sound designers, among others.
His writings have been published in several books; his music has appeared in a variety of films and television shows; he has been teaching privately for over 20 years; and he has performed in several notable theatre productions, including award-winning director Melvin Van Peebles’ production of Sweet Sweetback’s Baaadaaaas Song, and the New York Theater Workshop’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Ivo Van Hove. Recently, he initiated the Resonant Sculpture Project, an international series of solo musical interactions with the large-scale work of renowned sculptor, Richard Serra. It is a new and innovative work that has succesfully presented at Gagosian Gallery in New York and London, as well as the Princeton Museum of Art.
With a distinctive voice on each of his many woodwinds, Avram is known for the depth, intelligence, and soulfulness that he brings to a wide variety of musical settings. These include performances and recordings of straight-ahead and avant-garde jazz, funk, hip-hop, rhythm and blues, West and North African music, Latin, modern classical, and free jazz. He performs in groups of all sizes — from solo and duo, to big band and 45-piece orchestra.
His latest album, the long-awaited Big Picture Holiday: Shimmer and Melt, combines many of these past influences in a new and surprising way, marking a major step in his musical trajectory. As an active part of New York City’s underground music scene over the last several years, this six-piece electric ensemble has thrived in the wee hours of the city’s nightclubs, updating the golden era of jazz as decadent and physical groove music. On this album, he seems to be saying “Yes, it’s smart, but it feels good too!!” Big Picture Holiday: Shimmer and Melt will be released on Ropeadope Records on October 30, 2015.
Avram Fefer was born near San Francisco, but his early years were also spent in Pittsburgh, PA., Stockholm, Sweden, and Washington D.C. before the family finally settled near Seattle, Washington. After several fortuitous years in the hands of inspirational high school jazz band director Leo Dodd, Avram went on to receive a liberal arts degree at Harvard University and studied music at Berklee College and New England Conservatory. He then moved to Paris, France (1990-95) where he began his career as a saxophonist, composer, bandleader and teacher.
Paris offered many new sources of inspiration and growth including a vibrant African and Arabic music scene and a wealth of American expatriate musicians. His own bands played regularly in many of the city’s top jazz clubs and he performed with fellow ex-pats Jack Gregg, Bobby Few, Graham Haynes, Archie Shepp, Kirk Lightsey, Oliver Johnson, John Betsch, Sunny Murray, and Rasul Siddik among others. He played in Europe, Africa and the Mideast and was featured on diverse recordings, including by rap originators, the Last Poets (Scatterap/Home ), and with jazz legend Archie Shepp on drummer Steve McCraven’s Song of the Forest Boogeraboo. He performed with afro-beat drum sensation, Tony Allen and recorded two top-selling albums for Virgin France with an ‘acid-jazz’ band discovered by Gilles Peterson.
After moving to New York in 1995, Fefer continued indulging his passion for a wide variety of music while developing a unique sound capable of crossing multiple genres.
His love affair with the sax/ bass/ drums trio format blossomed in the city’s many jazz clubs and recording studios. His three releases — Calling All Spirits (2000), Ritual (2009), and Eliyahu (2011) — feature the bass of Eric Revis and the drums of either Igal Foni or Chad Taylor . These musicians have been playing together in varying combinations for nearly twenty years, making them one of the jazz world’s preeminent sax-bass-drum trios. The interactions are fierce, the communication instantaneous, and the musical roles often shifting.
His four releases with legendary jazz pianist Bobby Few received critical acclaim and resulted in tours in Europe and the United States, as well as significant radio airplay for their classic album Kindred Spirits (2005). Whether playing together as a duo or as part of a larger group, they display an uncanny musical rapport on material ranging from interpretations of works by Monk, Mingus, and Ellington, to original compositions and extended improvisations.
Since 2005, he has been a member of the avant-funk collective Burnt Sugar conducted by writer/guitarist Greg Tate . Together they have recorded six albums of original material, as well as repertoire of Sun Ra, James Brown, Miles Davis, and Steely Dan. They have performed in Europe and at a variety of venues in New York, including numerous times at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and the Blue Note Jazz Club. They also played and acted in award-winning director Melvin Van Peebles’ stage production of Sweet Sweetback’s Baaadaaaas Song.
With Adam Rudolph’s Organic Orchestra, he has been consistently chartering new musical territory since 2006, alongside many of New York’Äôs finest improvising musicians. They have recorded two CD’Äôs together and consistently present some of the most interesting and challenging live music on the contemporary scene.
Avram has been playing with bass phenom Michael Bisio for over 20 years. They have toured and recorded many times, including a live recording from the Vision Festival in New York City. Michael and Avram share a rare musical bond. Whether playing jazz standards, a set of improvised music, or a combination of both, their sound is authentic and expressive, allowing them to play spontaneously in a manner that is both joyous and profound.
Bassist and composer Adam Lane has been utilizing Avram’s talents in many different contexts and configurations since 2001. With Adam’s Full Throttle Orchestra, they toured Europe and released two CD’s, including a double CD recorded Live at the Ljubjana Jazz Festival. Their two quartet recordings as the Blue Spirit Band, featuring the late trumpeter Roy Campbell and drummer Vijay Anderson, build on the improvised tradition of the American spiritual as conceived by musicians like Charles Mingus and Albert Ayler. They also have a co-operative band, the NuJu 4tet, featuring Igal Foni and trombonist Reut Regev, which performs original music from all four of its members.
“Greg is one funky drummer who knows how to push me so well. He’s bankable.” -Patti LaBelle
Beauty, sensitivity and force radiate through the drumming of Greg Gonzalez. His feel and passion for music have carried him to the highest levels of artistry and afforded him the opportunity to perform at the most famous venues around the world. His resume includes performance and recording credits with top artists in virtually every genre of music, from pop/R&B artists such as Beyonce and Patti LaBelle, to jazz artists such as Cecil Taylor and Don Braden. Greg is the currently the drummer and associate conductor for the Tony Award winning Broadway show Fela!
Growing up in Venice, CA, Greg had the privilege of studying with known guru Freddie Gruber as well as attending UCLA School of Music and Dick Grove School of Music where he studied with legends David Garibaldi, Louis Conte, and Mitchell Peters. He moved to New York City in the early 90’s and has since become one of the most versatile and sought after drummers today.
Beyonce, Patti LaBelle, Teddy Geiger, Jazz Mandolin Project, Cecil Taylor, Sonya Kitchell, Danielia Cotton, Antibalas, Bernie Worell, Don Braden, Gerald Clayton, Falu, Topaz, Mark Egan, Ron Affif, Ben Alison, Andrew Vladeck, Exegesis, Chris Lee, X is X, Greta Gertler, and many more…
Late Night with David Letterman, MTV, Ellen DeGeneres, CBS Tony Awards, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Colbert Report, The View, Regis and Kelly, NBC Morning Show, and Good Morning America.
Broadway and Off Broadway Credits:
Fela! On Broadway, The American Clock, The A Train Plays, and The Eelwax Jesus 3D Pop-up show.
Other Career Highlights:
A performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Greg’s original jazz project Exegesis, a performance at Birdland Tokyo with Shoko Nagai, the release of his self written and self produced EP Concrete Reality, and a European tour with Alice Texas and the late Chris Whitley.
Guitarist, composer, bandleader, author, tone scientist and fashion designer (Onoculii Designs), On Ka’a Davis has been a long time contributor to the scene of New York’s Lower East Side, the place of the axis of New York’s avant garde culture of music, art and social activism, emerging as an original personna….a true iconic revolutionary in thought, action and accomplishments. On was a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra (with SunRa), Charles ‘Bobo’ Shaw’s Human Arts Ensemble, Don Ayler’s Septet (Ayler’s only group as a leader, having recorded in Italy the now classic documentation in a 3 record set) and has worked extensively with saxophonist Luther Thomas, just to mention some of his credits from the more distant past. On publishes his music as On Mu Music (ASCAP), now with over 30 release titles. Under the name ‘X-Ray Search Light Project’, On’s studio efforts explore what he describes as musical exhibitions.
Exploratories in his pulse beat music depict what On has coined as ‘djuke music’, a mix of voodoo blues, sonic jazzes and explosive releases over intense rhythms and ‘free’ improvisations. Titles in the On Mu Music catalog have included the contributions of luminary artists such as bassists Juini Booth, Radu Ben Judah and Francis MBappe, vocalists Marie Afonso, Tess Marsalis and Kadiatou Sibi, saxophonists Andrew Lamb, Luther Thomas, Sabir Mateen, Khusenaton Shu Amon, Saco Yasuma and Electric Meg Montgomery, percussionists Jojo Kuo, Greg Lewis and Tom Augsburger and pianist Matthew Shipp. Most recently, On works with drummer Kenny Wollesen as a member of his big band ‘Himalayas’ as well as with a variety Wollesen’s sub set groups. Since the summer of 07, On has been the director of the Sun Ra Impossible Space Circus, a big band collective that performs the music of Sun Ra from Ra’s original scores. This ensemble has only performed exclusively in New York, yet has attracted the attention of DownBeat magazine. On also is a member/founder of the trio group ‘Cartoon Satellite’ that features Nick Gianni on saxes and keyboards and Dalius “the genuis” Naujo on drums. On also leads the group ‘Djuke Obbo’, a jazzed out ensemble that keeps the pulse beat rhythms and chanted lyrics of his self-styled ‘djuke music’, addressing social conscious with hip deliveries. On has been a frequent guest on wkcr radio 89.9 fm, the station of Columbia University, the country’s oldest radio station founded on a jazz programming format, performing live and engaging in musical discussions. Other musicians of note that On has been performing with recently have been guitarist Vernon Reid, keyboardist Aaron Whitby and bassist Kim Clarke. As a scholar, On has published his first book entitled, “Exerciricle: Keys to Museo-Ontology (On Mu Music Press). This book is perhaps the only book of its kind to explore the science of museo-ontology, the study of sound- energy in meta-physical science as a way for the student/initiate to attain a means of achieving one’s greatest creative potential. On is currently writing 2 more books, one a study of ‘sound as “true” (architectual) geometry and another on the codes of American slave society music that spawned what has become the music called jazz.
Greg Tate was a Staff Writer at The Village Voice from 1987-2003. His writings on culture and politics have also been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Artforum, Rolling Stone, VIBE, Premiere, Essence, Suede, The Wire, One World, Downbeat, and JazzTimes. He was recently acknowledged by The Source magazine as one of the ‘Godfathers of Hiphop Journalism’ for his groundbreaking work on the genre’s social, political, economic and cultural implications in the period when most pundits considered it a fad.
His published interviews include dialogues with s Miles Davis, George Clinton, Richard Pryor, Carlos Santana, Lenny Kravitz, Sade, Erykah Badu, Wayne Shorter, Joni Mitchell, Lisa Bonet, Samuel R Delany, Ice Cube, Dexter Gordon, Betty Carter, King Sunny Ade, Chuck D of Public Enemy, Cassandra Wilson, Jill Scott, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Ornette Coleman, Henry Threadgill and Vernon Reid of Living Colour.
Tate has also written for the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, ICA Boston, ICA London, Museum of Contemporary Art Houston, The Studio Museum In Harlem, The Gagosian Gallery, Deitch Projects and the Tate Museums London and Liverpool. His writing about visual art includes monographs and essays about Chris Ofili. Wengechi Mutu, Jean Michel Basquiat, Ellen Gallagher, Kehinde Wiley and Ramm El Zee.
His books include Everything But The Burden, What White People Are Taking From Black Culture (Harlem Moon/Random House, 2003), Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and The Black Experience (Acapella/Lawrence Hill, 2003); Flyboy In The Buttermilk, Essays on American Culture (Simon and Shuster, 1993). Next year Duke University Press will publish Flyboy 2:The Greg Tate Reader. He recently completed ‘The 100 Best Hiphop Lyrics’ for Penguin and is now working on a book about the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, for Riverhead Press.
His play My Darling Gremlin (with live music score by Lawrence Butch Morris) was produced at Aaron Davis Hall in 1993 and at The Kitchen in 1995. His short feature film Black Body Radiation was completed in 2006. He also collaborated on the librettoes for Juluis Hemphill’s opera Long Tongues (Apollo Production) and for Leroy Jenkins’ Fresh Faust, (Boston ICA Production).