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Saxophonist Avram Fefer and pianist Bobby Few seem something of a sonic odd couple. Few's majestically bluesy, classically-influenced, erudite-yet-free approach is full of flowing beauty, infused with a marrow-deep spirituality. Avram Feferespecially on tenorsounds at times like a ragged wound; not a punture or clean slice, but a deep raw scrape producing a big roaring sound full of rough edges. Beauty and the Beast, you might say; not that Fefer doesn't slip into moments tenderness and delicacy himself, when the moment seems right.
I first encountered the duojoined by bassist Wilbur Morrison Few and Far Between (Boxholder Records, '02), a disc that opens with Few's masterpiece, "Continental Jazz Express," a propulsive, wailing fifteen minute tour de force that also included Wilbur Morris's searing "Chazz" and Fefer's anguished "Loss." It was one of the finest free jazz discs of 2002. Heavenly Places is even better, featuring three extended works, with Bobby Few's nimble flourishes interspersed with a rollicking, tumbling beauty in perfect counterpoint to Fefer's unleashed emotional intensity.
Bobby Few, who has lived in Paris since 1969, is a true American treasure, with his free jazz-meets Erroll Garner-meets deep spirituality approach, a hidden treasure that Boxholder Records alone is revealing for us. Aside from two previous recent sets on the label, his output (seventy plus albums) has been mostly on small European labels. He is probably best known in his home country as a member of soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy's sextet from 1982-92. Reedman Avram Feferhe of the scorching tenor tonealso lived in Paris for five years before returning to New York in the mid-'90s. He has several fine CIMP releases to his namemost notably, for this ear, Shades of the Muse, with bassist Ken Filiano, cellist Tomas Ulrich, and drummer Jay Rosen.
Heavenly Places (for those who are categorizing) can be considered free jazz, but it falls into a very accessible side of that sound for anyone who's been there. An engrossing, magnificent, glorious musical experience.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.