Avram Fefer and Bobbie Few, Kindred Spirits / Heavenly Places, Boxholder, 2005
Piano / saxophone duets are a great form, featuring the fullness of the piano's range, while still retaining intimacy, space and detail.
Kindred Spirits is a collection of confident, sensitive duet interpretations of Monk, Mingus, and Ellington compositions from two players associated more with avant-garde improvisation than traditional jazz. Of course Monk, Mingus, and Ellington were composers who totally blurred the difference between avant-garde and traditional in the first place. Not to mention the fact that free jazz is itself a tradition that goes back almost fifty years.
Few's playing has a lot of solidity without losing a sense of levity. He's relaxed and straight to the point. He plays in a style that sounds very filled-out and supportive yet seems to be wasting nothing: not easy.
Fefer has a lush, balanced and incredibly mature tenor tone. His seriousness of purpose and grasp of history here made me think of Frank Morgan.
The playing on Kindred Sprits is actually conservative playing, rather than conventional, in that it is literally conserving the spirit of the original music, not just the rules and atmosphere of that music. Keeping it alive in other words. There are many recordings of classic jazz compositions done over the last twenty years where I hear it and say -- that's fine, but why would I listen to this when I could listen to the original? Kindred Spirits is a CD I would eagerly put on as well as putting on the originals.
The CD ends with a couple of originals by Fefer, including gorgeous lullaby that ends the disc.
This is a pan-tonal, free-flowing rhapsodic free improvisation session with sense of patience as well as a density of pulsation.
Few is using chordal vocabularies of Monk and Ellington, but for different ends here.
One long track covers much territory -- variety and contrast... dense and light sections flow effortlessly and seamlessly.
Fefer doesn't repeat himself while developing his statements. He says something, adds to it, says something else, changes, develops, qualifies, so you are left with the feeling of having heard responsive and intelligent music that covered territory. Like someone thinking something through, feeling through something thoroughly.
Few's playing here is comprehensive and rhapsodic, with beautiful harp-like cascades. You can hear him using everything at his disposal.