Although this recording would mark their first reunion since the early '60s and the times of their School Days quartet, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy and Roswell Rudd have much in common, going back to their collective roots in Dixieland jazz. Both would take the cue of Cecil Taylor and other "new thing" artists in an attempt to open new horizons for jazz, Lacy as a leader of his own groups over the years and Rudd as an integral part of fire breather Archie Shepp's 60's ensemble and most recently as a purveyor of the neglected legacy of pianist Herbie Nichols.
While Monk's Dream may not pack the collective punch that one might have hoped for considering its long gestation period, it still has its moments of pure creative bliss, particularly when it comes to the revisiting of Lacy's "The Bath," "The Rent," and "The Door." All three compositions contain the type of programmatic signposts that suggest the classical influences that can be often felt in Lacy's writing. "The Bath" makes the most of a playful grouping of notes tossed about in a descending pattern and Rudd's use of the horn's textural range and nuances shows that he learned a thing or two from his former boss Shepp.
For the two Monk tunes and Ellington's "Koko" things take on a bit more conservative stance, albeit with an undercurrent of creative interplay booting things along nicely. Tasty background lines and Rudd's muted work in spots keeps up the interest level, although the lack of support from a chording instrument tends to lead to a sense of one-dimensionality at times. However, the least effective pieces have to be "A Bright Pearl" and "Traces," both of which suffer from the operatic and downright odd vocal histrionics of Irene Aebi.
Taken as a whole, Monk's Dream stands out as a solid entry in the discographies of both Lacy and Rudd. It's collective moments of creative energy more than outweigh its shortcomings and fans of both artists will come away with a better cognizance of two of the music's unrivaled individualists.
Monk's Dream, The Bath, The Rent, Pannonica, A Bright Pearl, Traces, Koko, Grey Blue, The Door (76:00)
Steve Lacy- soprano saxophone, Roswell Rudd- trombone, Jean-Jacques Avenel- bass, John Betsch- drums, Irene Aebi- vocals (tracks 5 and 6 only)
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