Departing from their regular policy of presenting new faces, Jazz Gallery recently reunited keyboard master Bobby Few with the boundless energy of reedman Avram Fefer for an evening celebrating a pair of new duo releases. When they first began playing together in Paris in the early '90s, Few was best-known as a member of the Center of the World Quartet, as well as for playing Monk's music memorably with the Steve Lacy Sextet. Fefer, a fan of the Paris-based free jazz circle that included Few, Archie Shepp and Graham Hayes among others, repatriated to New York a decade ago. The evening was a rare opportunity to savor what Few called, "putting our mathematics together.
The live sets mirrored the contrasting approaches of the sets. Kindred Spirits emphasizes written compositions while Heavenly Places is about freer improvisation and includes two live performances, the title track and "Improv, from the Free Music Festival XXXI (2004) in Belgium. The ultra-mellow opener on Kindred Spirits is Monk's "Ask Me Now. Proving that too much of such a good thing can indeed be wonderful, next up is Monk's "Light Blue, with phrases that complement and complete in the manner of a couple who've been together forever.
For contrast there's Mingus' "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress Then Blue Silk, a roundabout of longing and bluesy erotica with insistent, honky tonk piano and steamy, haunting blasts from Fefer. Their hypnotic, undulating reading of Fefer's piece, "Heavenly Places , on which he blows clarinet and sax simultaneously, hardly prepares a listener for their further adventures with the same tune on the second disc.
That version of "Heavenly erupts with Fefer blowing hot from note one in tandem with a fluent cascade of rising and falling notes from Few that reveal a previously undisclosed power in his playing. Unwilling to stop at the excellence of their previous take on it, here they revel in exploring uncharted territory. (At times during the live performance Fefer blew without a mouthpiece and then blew into the horn end of his sax while beating time against it.) Stormy chords from Few inspire a barrage of squeaks and otherworldly sounds from Fefer. Edgily combustible and totally in sync playing out of the box, it's a feast that blends into what sounds like a single, eloquent instrument.
Just prior to the evening performance, a jet-lagged Few laughingly observed that he was "asleep. If such music is the result of "sleeping, then to quote Mr. H. Bogart, "it's the stuff that dreams are made of.
Tracks: Ask Me Now; Light Blue; Reincarnation of a Lovebird; Come Sunday; Pannonica; Friday the 13th; Orange Was the Color of Her Dress Ten Blue Silk; Heavenly Places; Kingdom Come; Kingdom Come.
Personnel: Avram Feder: tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet; Bobby Few: piano.
Tracks: Happy Hour; Heavenly Places; Improv.
Personnel: Avram Fefer: tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet; Bobby Few: piano.