All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

147

Steve Lacy: School Days

Raul d'Gama Rose By

Sign in to view read count
As the title suggests, School Days is both ironic—because the ingenuity of these musicians might have actually been the best schooled at the time of the recording—and iconic, as well. The reason? Steve Lacy and Roswell Rudd formed one of the great, seminal repertory ensembles of all time, playing the music of Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. Moreover, this reissue includes two tracks of Monk's group that included Steve Lacy. While the recordings with Monk have been issued previously, on In Philadelphia 1960 with Steve Lacy (RLR, 2006), this Emanem version is better mastered and sets the historic date right. So this is a memorable recording with music as hard-edged, yet brilliant, as raw diamonds, which also makes it as precious as those much-coveted rocks. And then there is the music that, being Monk's, would certainly exist outside of time, being some of the most classic compositions of the 20th Century.

The album begins with an accidental trio because—as is recorded in his exquisite liner notes by producer Martin Davidson—bassist Henry Grimes arrived late for the date. As it happens, this created an exquisite "mistake" that not only meant piano-less Monk music, but also Monk with soprano saxophone and trombone, the latter an instrument the composer never envisioned. This in 1963, when the music of Monk was just being re-discovered. What courage on the part of Lacy and Rudd; the meandering "Bye-Ya" sounds absolutely stunning, with drummer Denis Charles playing so in the pocket, the music has an almost sacred rhythmic ingenuity to it; and, even though this recording of "Pannonica" begins part of the way into the chart, the majesty of Monk's jagged music is kept intact.

The most important aspect of Thelonious Monk's work is that is has a sprawling architecture, with almost no melody at right angles in its schematics. This singular angularity is what makes it so special. Lacy and Rudd not only play Monk as Monk would have it, but also imbue the music with harmony of exceeding elegance. The palette is as beautifully dense as it is viscous, with Lacy painting the topmost shades and Rudd smearing the bottom with growls and voice-like, visceral linguistics. "Monk's Dream," "Brilliant Corners" and "Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are" are recalled and recast in all their splendor at a somewhat faster pace, almost as if challenging the players to strut their Monkish stuff. And this they do, while the beautiful, whimsical "Monk's Mood" is utterly memorable, with the three-part counterpoint created by a soaring Lacy, vociferous Rudd and grumbling Grimes, who is brilliant throughout. For the record, the reading of "Skippy" is just as unforgettable.

In Pliny's terms for overcoming an enemy—although there should be none for such a priceless album—this reissue absolutely "chokes (them) with gold": Two concluding tracks featuring the majesterium of Thelonious Monk and Charlie Rouse are a delight.

Track Listing: Bye-Ya; Pannonica; Monk's Dream; Brilliant Corners; Monk's Mood; Ba-lue Boliver Ba-lues-are; Skippy; Evidence; Straight No Chaser.

Personnel: Steve Lacy: soprano saxophone; Roswell Rudd: trombone (1-7); Henry Grimes: double-bass (1-7); Dennis Charles: drums (1-7); Thelonious Monk: piano (8, 9); Charlie Rouse: tenor saxophone (8, 9); John Ore: double-bass (8, 9); Roy Haynes: drums (8, 9).

Title: School Days | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Emanem

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles

Related Articles

Read 1538 CD/LP/Track Review
1538
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Love Wins CD/LP/Track Review
Love Wins
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 19, 2018
Read 1538 CD/LP/Track Review
1538
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Mutt Slang CD/LP/Track Review
Mutt Slang
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Prisma CD/LP/Track Review
Prisma
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Jazz Tango CD/LP/Track Review
Jazz Tango
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 18, 2018
Read "Tales From Under" CD/LP/Track Review Tales From Under
by James Nadal
Published: July 5, 2017
Read "Starebaby" CD/LP/Track Review Starebaby
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 6, 2018
Read "So Far" CD/LP/Track Review So Far
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 22, 2018
Read "Jeg roper til deg" CD/LP/Track Review Jeg roper til deg
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 7, 2017
Read "Anecdotes II" CD/LP/Track Review Anecdotes II
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 31, 2018
Read "Murals" CD/LP/Track Review Murals
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 20, 2018