Krakow, July 13-14-15, 2017




Bobby Few is an excellent American jazz pianist and composer living in France. I have known and admired his music since I was a kid. Which was many weeks ago. Unfortunately, I had never had a chance to see him playing live. So, obviously, I was hugely excited to hear he was coming to Krakow.

This time he came as a member of the JdL Quartet. As I had never heard that band, or even of that band, I was really curious what they might be like. Soon it turned out that it's a French group based in the Paris area and that they have been working together for about a decade. They have a CD out, titled "Engrenage".

Jacques de Lignières, the leader of the JdL Quartet, plays tenor, alto and soprano saxophones (in Krakow sans alto). The rhythm section consists of Hervé Czak on double bass and Jean-Pascal Molina on drums. Because Molina was unable to make it to Krakow, their old drummer Serge Lamboley, currently residing in Thailand, came to their rescue. 

On the first night the musicians played well but seemed a bit tense and stiff, which may have been a result of a long travel. But the next two gigs were relaxed, happy and energetic. They started with the original Bobby Few's very short composition titled Continental Jazz Express which was treated both as an intro and an appetizer. The funny thing is, it lasted slightly over one minute, while the original version recorded by Bobby Few for the Vogue label lasted a bit more than a quarter of an hour.

Then they proceeded with some more originals and standard tunes. Of the songs you might know the JdL 4 presented Red Car by Art Pepper, Uncle Bubba by Gary Bartz or the immortal, all-time favourite classic Prelude in E minor by Frederic Chopin, which had countless renderings, including that by the Gerry Mulligan Sextet.

The material was very crafty, combining some driving, melodic and rhythmically charged compositions with slower, sometimes moody ballads. Like Breeze by Bobby Few, which began with whispering/whizzing sounds by the pianist and the sax player and the main theme played in a somewhat asymmetric unison, some cool haunting piano, then soprano solo, with the drummer using brushes, and even mallets at times, and with a sad bass solo,  Charlie Haden coming to mind, and concluded with a beautiful piano playing.

Jacques de Lignières wrote Baby's Blues, an interesting, melodic composition in which Hervé Czak plays a special bass segment where he can experiment a little using both arco and pizzicato techniques, playing below the bridge, tapping the instrument's body. On this tune Jacques de Lignières employed his soprano quite nicely and Bobby Few, apart from his cool playing, danced a little near his piano happy and trancelike.

Among some other interesting tunes there was The In Between by Booker Ervin, Bobby Few's early collaborator. They recorded it back in the sixties on a Blue Note label album under the same title.

And then I open my ears and close my eyes, as here comes a big surprise. Our free form jazz veteran sings songs that are almost pop hits. In his own special way, that is. One was especially captivating, and that was Freedom. A simple, poplike melody of the type that rminds you those recorded by Sun Ra. On the surface, a catchy little ditty that you instantly hum along to, but at the same time carrying a serious and important message. If memory serves:


Everybody in the whole wide world

Has the right to be free

Just like me and you

Just like you and me

Come with me

You will see

Just how happy you can be

Freedom all in my bones

It won't leave me alone

Freedom drives me crazy























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