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Bobby Few: Lights and Shadows

Dan McClenaghan By

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Count pianist Bobby Few as one of those jazz artists deserving more recognition. Chalk his low profile up to expatriation—he's lived in Paris since 1969. Unless you've followed the career of Albert Ayler—Few played on Ayler's Music is the Healing Force of the Universe (Impulse!, 1969)—or soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy (Few was the pianist in Lacy's sextet from 1982-92), chances are that this distinctive stylist hasn't cascaded, with his lush and tumultuous approach, onto your listening radar.

Though appearing on numerous records on small European labels over the years, it has been, until recently, difficult to find Bobby Few on CD in the U.S. His teaming with reedman Avram Fefer on Kindred Spirits and Heavenly Places (both discs from Boxholder Records, 2005) and Sanctuary (CIMP Records, 2006) is beginning to rectify the "hard-to-find" aspect of Bobby Few on CD. Add to those outings this solo set, Lights and Shadows.

Solo piano, that no-net venue, is not an easy task; but nobody is better-suited to it than Bobby Few. His Continental Jazz Express (Boxholder, 2002), recorded live at the 2000 Vision Festival, is a superb example of the genre, and the title tune may be the most energized and stirring "train song" in jazz.

Lights and Shadows is a studio date, but it has all the vigor, freedom and beauty of a live outing. The title tune, at eighteen-and-a-half minutes, rumbles and rolls, segues into moments of introspective repose and churns inexorably forward, a turbulent seat-of-the-pants journey though a hilly landscape of wax and wane illuminations.

The set opens with "Bells," with Few sounding very free and at the same time very approachable, followed by the set's only non-original, Steve Lacy's "Flakes." Few can probably be categorized as a "free" player, but his freedom always feels possessed of an underlying structure, full of rich harmonies, deep melodic beauty and ongoing surprises. Lights and Shadows is an engrossing solo set from an under-recognized American master.

Track Listing: Bells; Flakes; From Different Lands; Enomis; Lights and Shadows; What You Doing?; Dreams.

Personnel: Bobby Few: piano.

Title: Lights And Shadows | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Boxholder Records


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