FFEAR stands for Forum For Electro-Acoustic Research, and that name is mostly correct. With Chris Washburne on trombone, Tony Moreno on drums, and Ole and Per Mathisen on saxophone and bass respectively, this quartet reserves the electro aspect for when they play into microphones. But it’s not a stretch to say that they are a “forum” conducting “research”, musically discussing ways in which to fuse improvisational jazz with classically-inclined composition. It really is a meeting of the minds, full of debate and resolution, casting experiments into the circle only to rally the troops just a few bars later. Mirage, showcasing two extended suites written by Ole Mathisen and Chris Washburne, revels more in exercise than conviction, giving FFEAR a academic arc that rivals the smeared notation by artist Frederick Sommer (a point on inspiration for the second suite) that adorns the album’s cover. The band’s fiercest weapon is Moreno, one of those rare drummers who plays with tempo and meter the way others play with silly putty. As long as he is able to play whatever these guys throw at him, FFEAR could prove worthwhile research.
// Notes from the Road
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