To record an album dedicated to another musicianespecially one as recently dead and as revered as Steve Lacyis a risky business. The risk is greater if it is also an album of unaccompanied playing. If you're too reverential, you may be accused of cashing in and/or plagiarism; if you're too individualistic, you may be accused of disrespect ... and cashing in. Damned if you do, damned if you don't!
So, hats off to Joe Giardullo, who has expertly navigated his way between these competing hazards and produced an album that is both worthy of its dedicatee and excellent in its own right. It features Lacy's compositions "Prospectus and "Hurtles alongside seven Giardullo originals. The transitions between the two are seamless. If one were to listen to this album without any advance information or contextualization, there would be no doubt that it is inspired by Lacy. Giardullo manages to convey the spirit of Lacy without obviously copying or stealing any of his licks. Sure, there are not too many solo soprano players about. (With good reason, given how notoriously difficult an instrument it is.) However, I cannot think of another one who could have made as good a job of a Lacy tribute.
Giardullo's sound on the soprano sax is as rich and full as Lacy's, and his playing is just as confident and sure-footed. Giardullo manages to copy that neat trick of Lacy's; once he had played a line, it immediately sounded logical and right...even if he subsequently played it very differently. He achieves the same sort of ying/yang balance as Lacy did between inside and outside, tradition and experimentation. For evidence, check out "Sentiments," with its quoting of "In a Sentimental Mood" coupled with freely soaring flights of fancy.
However, this is one of those rare albums where it is needless to single out individual tracks; all nine are exquisite, and the album is best listened to in its entirety. A gem.