[20 September 2010]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Listening to Garrison Fewell’s Variable Density Sound Orchestra can be a schizophrenic experience, because every adjective of the ensemble’s name comes to life tenfold on Sound Particle 47. Normally a classicist of hard-bop jazz guitar, Fewell, a professor at Berklee, has cobbled together a group where trumpet, trombone, and sax combine to make a dangerous racket. Roy Campbell Jr., Achille Succi, John Voigt, Miki Matsuki Steve Swell, Kelly Roberge, Dmitry Ishenko and Fewell’s label-mate, Eric Hofbauer, contribute to the fury. The way “Betty’s Bounce” devolves from Wes Montgomery territory into chromatic splattering would surely give Stanley Crouch a heart-attack. This doesn’t mean that Sound Particle 47 comes without easier moments, like the quietly jubilant “Afro Danish Form 6”, or portions of the epic closer “Long Distance Unity”, but be prepared to do some work in your part as listener. Garrison Fewell is, after all, a music instructor.