Released by the Boxholder label in tandem with another project by the same duo entitled Kindred Spirits, this recording again presents an important if very different aspect of the jazz repertoire. For the Heavenly Places set, pianist Bobby Few and saxophonist and clarinetist Avram K. Fefer present the expansive and expressive free music of the '60s and '70s. Since the Kindred Spirits set is a collection of well-known classic jazz standards concluding with a couple of short original themes, the contrast with the largely improvised Heavenly Places is great. The use of a theme entitled "Kingdom Come" on both sets may tie everything together, but so should the understanding that all the duo's music is coming out of the same creative disciplines.
For either instrumentalist, the setting of keyboards and reeds is a serious challenge if the results are, as presented here, improvisations between ten and 20 minutes in length. Few is nothing if not an old hand at this type of modern jazz, his piano having served as an altar, steam engine, and fortress of solitude in the music of bandleaders such as Frank Wright, as well as a good place to put an ashtray. A summer festival session in Antwerp and a studio meeting from about the same time provide the material for this CD, the simple and straightforward recording sound forcing total concentration on the two improvisers as they create a diary of communication in the moment. The pianist seems most comfortable when Fefer is going strong on tenor, perhaps because of Few's background, or simply because the horn's range is more up to the task of a serious confrontation with pianistic grandeur. On the smaller horns, Fefer can at times seem short of ideas or breath; at the same time, as is usual for this type of music, the selection of different horns makes for an instant sense of variety in a type of performance that can sometimes sound too similar. The accessibility of the aforementioned Kindred Spirits may make it more of a popular choice with listeners, but this more adventurous side of the Fefer and Few duo also deserves attention.