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James Emery/Joe Lovano/Judi Silvano/Drew Gress: Fourth World

In late 2000, James Emery performed an informal concert with this group-Joe Lovano, saxes and percussion; Judi Silvano, wordless vocals, flute and gong; Drew Gress, bass-in Middletown, N.Y., and enjoyed it so much, he decided to record with it. The resulting Fourth World (Between the Lines BTL 020 / EFA 10190-2; 66:48) wavers between restless inspiration and indulgence. The recording opens on a promising note with “Bellflower,” a genial three-way between Gress, Emery and Lovano on tenor, and ends with a pair of equally pleasing tunes, “Hannah’s Song,” and “In a Secret Place.” Much in between catches participants reeling off long strings of notes with bent trajectories in a show of virtuosity-Emery’s preternaturally quick acoustic-guitar lines and Silvano’s upper-register control in particular-if also frequent aimlessness.

Lovano and Emery share composition honors on the recording. Emery’s pieces range from tight and genial (like the aforementioned songs) to less structured, exploratory things. Two of Lovano’s gong-laden tunes take the processional route, sounding at times like a living-room jam-especially with Lovano engaging in his percussion fantasies and Silvano dragging out her flutes and gongs. Sure, it makes me sound like a wet blanket, but it has to be said: When the gang sticks to its own thing, and sets the drums, gongs and flutes aside, it sounds much better.

Originally Published