Steve Lacy wore as many hats as any musician of his generation: instrumentalist par excellence, free music innovator, master composer, solo saxophone trailblazer, poetry buff, Monkian doyen, salvager of the soprano, world traveler, inspirational offbeatnik. The evolution of Lacy's aesthetic catholicism is a wonder to trace, dissect, and absorb, and it's fascinating to hear, even now, what late pieces have been added to the puzzle.
New Jazz Meeting documents the saxophonist's contribution to a real-time "remixing of a piece by Austrian composer Bernard Lang. Lang's composition, entitled "DW 1.2, offers a unique challenge to the performers assembled; the base materials of the structure are largely repetitive, loop-like cells, seemingly ungenerous improvisational material. It is a testament to the power of the minds assembled, then, that these recordings unfold with such exceptional creative logic.
There is a certain idiosyncrasy, a mystère to these ensemble works. Perhaps it is because transformation and reassembly rest at the core of these performances, and because this particular amalgamation of instrumental possibilitiesa traditional "jazz trio, a DJ, and two electronic musiciansis so unique, that there is a restless quality about this album. Lacy would never be accused of "hogging the limelight on his own recordings, but here, more than ever, the dynamics of power and understanding are thrown completely out of whack.
The lack of a discreet, or, more uniquely, permanent ensemble hierarchy on these recordings elevates New Jazz Meeting above the realm of "sound experiment and into an existence as a separate sound space, a coherent, if restive, composition unto itself. Packaged as they are together, the variable configurations of musicians congeal into a sort of mutable wholeone second bassist Peter Herbert and drummer Wolfgang Reisinger rumbling out dense, ominous soundscapes, the next seized by DJ Philip Jeck's jittery beats, Bernhard Lang's echoing sound manipulations, Christof Kurzmann's electronic chattering. At the center of it all is Lacy; it's not quite his concerto to play, but he's certainly a unifying constant in this uniformly eclectic whole.
It's pleasing to be reminded that, so close to death, Lacy was still adding new pieces to his jigsaw; even now his stature changes and growsafter the fashion of his music.