American sax player and bandleader Avram Fefer likes to «stick with people». His quartet features double bass player Eric Revis and drummer Chad Taylor who played in his longstanding trio and guitar icon Marc Ribot who joined the three musicians in 2018 for the recording of its debut album, Testament (Clean Feed, 2019). But these four musicians like to stick to each other on other occasions. Taylor played in Ribot’s Albert Ayler-themed Spiritual Unity project and in the recent albums of Revis. Fefer and Ribot share certain poly-stylistic, inter-disciplinary sonic visions that they’ve cultivated over the course of decades. Fefer has played with Archie Shepp, Steve Lacy, David Murray and the Last Poets led acid-jazz and drum-n-bass groups and collaborated with Gnawa bands. Ribot, who according to Fefer brings “punk spirituality” to his quartet, has worked with Elvis Costello and Tom Waits, delved into Cuban and Haitian folkloric music, interpreted a broad array of protest music, and made anarchic avant-rock records with Ceramic Dog.
Juba Lee was recorded at EastSide Sound in New York in March 2022 and represents a musical triumph for Fefer who had to overcome personal demons in the aftermath of the death of one of his closest friends, the legendary essayist and bandleader of Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber (in which Fefer was a key player), Greg Tate. And, indeed, Juba Lee is a powerful, spiritual free jazz triumph, that highlights the always, soulful and warm sax tones of Fefer, the brilliant guitar playing of Ribot and the magical rhythmic fluency of Revis and Taylor, and all as a tight unit that let the music flow in a totally natural manner.
Fefer composed all the pieces, eight of them are new ones. The quartet opens with the soulful and sensual groove of «Showtime» that cements Fefer and Ribot’s organic ability to breathe melodies as one and their almost telepathic interplay. This gift is even more clear when the quartet juggles with polyrhythmic patterns with its middle-Eastern vibes on pieces like «Bedouin Dream» and «Brother Ibrahim», the latter piece was originally recorded on Fefer’s Shades of the Muse (CIMP, 2004) in the midst of the Iraq war, as a protest piece against the horrors of that futile war. Throughout Juba Lee, Revis and Taylor demonstrate why they are such a perfect rhythm section, offering unshakeable, seductive and rolling-cyclical grooves that keep propelling Fefer and Ribot’s free and funky flights, including on the Ornette Coleman-inspired «Gemini Time», or coloring beautifully the touching ballad «Love Is in the Air». This great album is concluded with a beautiful, moving ballad dedicated to Tate, «Sweet 15 (for G.T.)», with Fefer on the bass clarinet and Ribot on the acoustic guitar.
Avram Fefer (as, ts, bcl), Marc Ribot (g), Eric Revis (b), Chad Taylor (dr)