Sphère review by John M. McGuire (June 2016)
United once again with longtime pal and musical compadre Jerry De Villiers Jr. on guitars, and propelled by the otherworldly talents of progressive legend Gary Husband (Allan Holdsworth; John McLaughlin; Dewa Budjana) on drums and keyboards, Sphère is the UK-based Canadian bass phenom Antoine Fafard’s most powerful musical statement to date. The canvas underlying his fourth solo album provides ample space for Fafard and his colleagues to step out… and step out, indeed, they do.
Powerful individual performances adorn some stirring compositions and sensitive ensemble work, with far-reaching improvisations decorating a backdrop of elegant understatement: subtly sophisticated; sublime. De Villiers’ soaring, legato guitar lines meet the same standard of excellence mandated by his delightfully tasty rhythms and atmospheric textural accompaniments. Perhaps one of progressive / jazz / fusion’s best kept secrets, Jerry really shines on this album, showcasing an articulate improvisational presence, coupled with strong melodic and thematic senses that rival fellow messengers Holdsworth, Gambale, Henderson and Muller.
Gary and Antoine both prove equal to the task, with Fafard’s bass not only holding down the fort but delivering some visionary, insightful solos throughout proceedings.
Short of the theatrics of De Villiers, Gary Husband could be rightly accused of hijacking the session! His opulent synth work is the perfect compliment to the occasion, often intertwining, to beautiful effect, with De Villiers’ syncopated rhythmic tapestries. Husband’s solos are stunning in their depth, imagination and harmonic understanding. His pristine piano work on “Cherishing” is as crisp, refreshing and genuinely innovative as anything the genre has seen in recent memory, evoking a Beirach-like presence while elevating the composition to unimagined heights.
On the kit, Gary provides a gliding undercurrent that is locked into the moment, in perfect sync – rhythmically, and dynamically – with Fafard’s surefooted, pulsating bass passages.
Sphère is immediately essential: a collection of nine majestic, brilliantly conceived and executed original compositions, showcasing three world-class musicians at their most sensitive and complementary best. For lovers of the progressive genre, encompassing progressive jazz, fusion, world music and avant-garde, it simply doesn’t get any better than this.