Lights And Shadows
Bobby Few and his pumpin’ piano have been heard on a fistful of classic or underrated free-jazz albums, from Albert Ayler’s Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe to Frank Wright’s Church Number Nine and Uhuru Na Umoja. His two-fisted, keyboard-sweeping style blends gospel fervor and avant-garde expressionism into an often breathtakingly beautiful tidal wave of sound that seems to draw equally from Cecil Taylor and Fats Waller.
Few’s new solo album is occasionally a meditative affair, as albums of (mostly) unaccompanied piano frequently are, but he’s lost nary a step in the decades since recording the legendary slabs cited above. And his still-powerful impulse to pummel the instrument, and the listener, into submission comes to the fore more often than not.
On the disc’s opener, “Bells,” Few overdubs whistle and bells, but otherwise it’s 10 fingers and 88 keys, all the way. On the gentle-ish “From Different Lands,” he gets into some almost classical territory, rumbling at the low end of the keyboard in a decidedly intimidating manner. This ain’t no easy listening dinnertime background music. “Enomis,” on the other hand, easily could be. The title is Few’s wife’s name spelled backward, and the piece is lush, romantic, and reminiscent of Thelonious Monk’s “Crepuscule With Nellie” in feel if not melody. Ultimately, this is a beautiful and multifaceted disc showcasing a pianist who should be a god to far more jazz fans than he presently is.
- Phil Freeman