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Avram Fefer & Bobby Few

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Bobby Few was a journeyman jazz pianist in Cleveland until the late 60s, when his friend Albert Ayler persuaded him to move to New York. There he recorded with Ayler (on the free-jazz kingpin's pleasantly wacko crossover records) and a couple other power tenor saxophonists, Booker Ervin and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. In 1969 he moved to the outskirts of Paris, just as that city was becoming a haven for American outcats, and recorded for BYG/Actuel and other European labels alongside expat heavies like Frank Wright and Sunny Murray. But Few may be best known for his extended stint with Steve Lacy in the 80s and early 90s, when he helped build one of the soprano saxophonist's more swinging rhythm sections and in return got to show off his own chameleonic bent. He can play delicate single-note melodies, roll out lush romantic chords, rap out explicitly Monkish close-interval clanks--though he's a busier pianist than Monk--or roil around in classic free style, using a sustain pedal to shape the density of his sound. He'll probably lean toward that last approach in his duet performance this week with Avram Fefer, to judge from their forthcoming live record, Few and Far Between (Boxholder), recorded in 2000 with bassist Wilbur Morris. Few and Fefer played together a lot in Paris, where the San Francisco-born reedist lived in the early 90s, and they maintained their association after Fefer moved to New York. On his main ax, tenor saxophone, he has a brawny, full-throttle sound; his phrasing can get predictably regular at times, but it usually works to boot the beat along rather than slow it down. Like some other modern tenor players informed by the 1960s avant-garde, he won't play 500 notes when 5,000 will do--he can run on like a filibustering senator. But he makes amends by peppering his originals with classic tunes: a highlight of the trio CD is a version of Mingus's "Nostalgia in Times Square," and with another trio on Calling All Spirits (Cadence Jazz) he plays catchy numbers by Mingus, Ornette Coleman, and Don Cherry. On all of them, he shows he can play inside the harmonies as well as bidding them gone with the wind. There's no use pretending loose, raucous blowing is still avant-garde, but on the right night a good dose of it can still lift the bandstand. The Empty Bottle, not a piano room, will be renting Few a baby grand. Wednesday, April 10, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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