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Steve Lacy:The Gap; Mal Waldron with the Steve Lacy Quintet

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Over a year ago we lost a pioneering musician who singlehandedly created a language for the soprano saxophone. Two overdue reissues from this year (both recorded in 1972) and a belated NYC tribute this month help us to commemorate his genius.

Steve Lacy
The Gap
Verve/Free America
2005

The Gap's title track, initiated with polyphonic quintet blasts followed by momentary silence, pronounces the tune and album's title, its harmonic nooks and crannies intentionally and randomly left for group exploration. With Steve Lacy are alto/soprano saxophonist Steve Potts, drummer Noel McGhie, cellist Irene Aebi - sans vocals - and bassist Kent Carter. From upper register overlapping flute-like saxophone parts to Carter and Aebi's dirge arco work, "Esteem quickly becomes a harmonic well for intertwining reeds and polyrhythmic brushwork and drumming. The near-20 minute session centerpiece "The Thing is where contemporary classical and chamber music meets free improv and jazz. The reissue's liners state, "Lacy is hardly lockable inside any stylistic drawer other than his own. There is no better example than here - subtle pitch variations between the two string players and two horns create a multitude of possibilities, exploiting the gaps as a springboard into a unique musical universe.

Mal Waldron with the Steve Lacy Quintet
Mal Waldron with the Steve Lacy Quintet
Verve/Free America
2005

An ideal companion piece, the juxtaposition of ensemble interaction, sailing and contrasting solos and even-if momentary pauses allows Mal Waldron with the Steve Lacy Quintet (basically add Lacy's longtime collaborator Waldron to the above mix) to continue the "gap concept naturally. The undeniably individual pianist adds a particular depth with resonant multi-textural playing of single notes and colorful yet dramatic chords, a perfect tonal foil at times to Lacy's atonal proclivities. Waldron once said, appropriately enough, "If there's no silence, the sound doesn't mean anything. Starting where "The Thing left off, the 18+ minute Waldron suite "Vio is followed by two of Lacy's originals: "Jump For Victor and a Monk-ish "Blue Wee , with two newly found precious alternate takes of the first two pieces.

The Gap

Tracks: 1 "The Gap" (7:52); 2 "Esteem" (5:39); 3 "La Motte Picquet" (3:49); 4 "The Thing" (18:45); 5 "La Motte Picquet" [alternate take] (3:42)

Personnel: Irene Aebi: cello; Kent Carter: bass; Steve Lacy: soprano; Noel McGhie: drums; Steve Potts: alto, soprano

Mal Waldron with the Steve Lacy Quintet

Tracks: 1 Vio; 2 Jump for Victor; 3 Blue Wee; 4 Vio (alternate); 5 Jump for Victor (alternate)

Personnel: Irene Aebi: cello; Kent Carter: bass; Steve Lacy: soprano; Noel McGhie: drums; Steve Potts: alto, soprano; Mal Waldron: piano

Related Article
Verve's Free America Series

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