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Gavin Harrison / Antoine Fafard — Chemical Reactions
(Bandcamp no#, 2020, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2021-09-04Bass master Antoine Fafard is back with a full album of collaborations with drummer Gavin Harrison. Fafard’s previous outings have featured varying guests on drums and other instruments, so this is a change in process to a degree. Aside from Fafard and Harrison, Chemical Reactions features the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra on two tracks, a string quartet on five tracks, and one track with Jerry Goodman on violin along with cello, marimba, and vibraphone (Harrison handles the mallets, while the cello is uncredited, as is the string quartet). The strings often fill the sort of role that keyboards would play in a band, though of course the feeling is very different — the string parts are arranged very creatively, with some very nice touches. The longest of the string quartet pieces is “Proto Mundi,” which shares a title with a previous Fafard album, though is not a track from that album — it may be built on ideas from the album, though I didn’t recognize any blatant ones. “Singular Quartz” is the track with Jerry Goodman, and is certainly a highlight, coming off as a brilliant fusion of electric jazz and RIO chamber music. Goodman provides a great solo, first on acoustic then on electric. The album finishes off with the two orchestral tracks. Given that Fafard’s modus operandi is energetic fusion playing, one might wonder how that translates to an orchestral setting. The answer is “Amazingly well,” and that’s down to the quality of the orchestral arranging and Harrison’s energy. I find it more satisfying to listen to than Mahavishnu’s Apocalypse, to pick a salient example. The balance is just right between density and rhythmic intensity Fafard’s bass is as stellar as always, full of funky lines, rapid fills, and virtuosic solos. Harrison contributes great rhythm parts, with an outstanding melodic sense to his playing. His ability to be incredibly technical while not sounding like an egomaniac is impressive and tasteful. Fafard’s growth as a composer and leader continues apace, and Chemical Reactions is an outstanding set of music.
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