Online since August 2002

Expat blues

From the Autumn 2002 issue.

Few and Far Between: Live at Tonic
Few and Far Between: Live at Tonic
By Avram Fefer, Bobby Few and Wilbur Morris

Boxholder Records: 2002

To learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Drimala Records entry.

The expatriate thing is an old, sad story in the jazz world. But our loss is Europe's gain in the case of pianist Bobby Few, best known in the U.S. for his work with the Steve Lacy Sextet. Few has made his home in Paris for the past thirty years, but he came back home to perform at Tonic back in June 2000, and Boxholder Records, fortunately, caught his performance with saxophonist Avram Fefer and bass man Wilbur Morris that day.

The disc features four extended tunes, one by each of the band members, and a nice classic wrap-up — Mingus' "Nostalgia in Times Square."

Few's hard-driving "Continental Jazz Express" opens the set — a fifteen-minute runaway train. Downbound? Saxman Fefer with his jagged, wounded sound seems to want things to go there; or ascending the scales to heaven, Few's apparent goal; or somewhere in between: anchored hard on the ground, churning forward with Morris' solid, throbbing bass. A meshing of musical antagonisms that pervades the entire disc, making it so successful.

The atmosphere darkens with bass man Morris' "Chazz," a wee hours, smoky room blues, a continual balancing act between Few's delicate lines and Fefer's forthright, in-your-face blowing.

Leader Fefer's "Loss" is perhaps the highlight of the set, a slow builder like "Chazz" with Few setting the delicate, sad atmospherics; Fefer moaning low and melancholic, bemoaning in restrained notes a deep loss, then gradually blowing his grief into the wailing and teeth-gnashing end of the spectrum, his sax sounding like a tenor band saw chewing its way through the hard, dark stained oak of a coffin lid, screaming upon its encounters with dense swirls of wood grain at the knots it encounters ...

The nineteen-minute closer, Mingus' "Nostalgia in Times Square," lightens the mood. A driver, almost jaunty, it acts as an up-tempo bookend to Few's train song opener. Fefer is more contained here, with some serrated edges — he'd have fit right in with a Mingus band — and the rhythm is tight, with some fine soling all around.

Another live gem from Boxholder Records, with sound quality as good as most studio dates.

Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.

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