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Steve Lacy Quintet: Esteem

Nic Jones By

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Anyone who demands state of the art sound quality needn't read any further. This music was originally captured on a cassette by the late Steve Lacy himself and comes from his own archive, as maintained by his wife, Irene Aebi. Audio restoration hasn't resulted in state of the art reproduction, but when the music is as singular and as vibrantly alive as it is here, the issue is irrelevant.

The band is essentially the same one as Lacy maintained throughout the last decades of his life, and the gig was played at La Cour Des Miracles in Paris in February of 1975. It finds a band coming to terms with a programme of music that was destined to become a significant part of its working life, but even at this unit's stage in its career, it's clear that Lacy had assembled a band that was equal to the demands of his music. The title track is an indication of just how singular that music could be. Percussionist Kenneth Tyler establishes an indeterminate pulse over which first Lacy, who it must be said is poorly served by the balance throughout, then Steve Potts on alto sax espouse their cause.

"The Uh Uh Uh" features a theme every bit as idiosyncratic as anything from the pen of either Thelonious Monk or Herbie Nichols—and indeed, close listening reveals the debt Lacy owed to those two. At the same time he was engaged in ploughing the kind of furrow that only the most single-minded of artists can maintain. Again it finds Potts in incendiary form over a bed of strings that seems to assume a life of its own.

"Flakes," which finds both Lacy and Potts on soprano sax, is an example of just how tight the band was becoming, and Aebi's playing avoids the cliches of just about every other violinist in the music, with the possible exception of Ramsey Ameen's work with Cecil Taylor.

So it's kind of nice to know this music is out there by way of counter to all the clinical, overproduced stuff on the market. Of course it would be inherently risky to assert that such audio shortcomings actually enhance the music, especially when this stuff is so vibrant and spontaneous.


Track Listing: The Crust; The Uh Uh Uh; The Rush; Esteem; Flakes; The Duck.

Personnel: Steve Lacy: soprano saxophone; Steve Potts: alto and soprano saxophone; Irene Aebi: cello and violin; Kent Carter: bass; Kenneth Tyler: percussion.

Title: Esteem | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Atavistic Worldwide

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