Mal Waldron: One More Time (2002)
A self-described "high point" for pianist Mal Waldron, One More Time goes eight times further than the title suggests. On this collection of eight tunes (all originals), Waldron spans a wide range of styles and moods. For example: the cozy lyricism of the solo piece "All Alone" goes angular and punchy in its final moments, leading to the edgy romanticism of "Rites of Initiation," a duo with bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel. At times Maldron seems to tug Avenel along, and at others the reverse is true. But most of the time, these two players seem to coexist in a shared musical universe that respects differences as well as similarities.
And that's a recurring theme throughout the record, which sits at the threshhold without necessarily committing to an "inside" or "outside" path. Waldron has a soft spot for swing, and the delicate touch to pull it off effortlessly. Without overstating things, he also delves deep into the heart of the blues. (Check out both of the latter on "Blues for J.J.'s Bass.") But he's not one to pull his punches, either (as adequately demonstrated on the solo piece "In the Land of Clusters"). Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, who knows all too well how to straddle boundaries, lends an understated energy to his birdlike melodies. Avenel finds plenty of opportunities for drama, and his voice often serves as a sort of diesel engine on One More Time.
With the give-and-take among these players, the various configurations found on this record (two solo, four duo, and two trio) tend to roil at a low simmer. There's not much outright fire, but nobody ever gets complacent, either. For Maldron, this indeed marks a high point. And pay close attention to bassist Avenel, whose outspoken playing deserves your ear.
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Track Listing: All Alone; Rites of Initiation; You; Blues for JJ's Bass; The Seagulls of Kristiansund; Waltz for Marianne; In the Land of Clusters; Soul Eyes.
Personnel: Mal Waldron: piano; Jean-Jacques Avenel: bass; Steve Lacy: soprano saxophone.