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Mal Waldron / Steve Lacy: The Mighty Warriors

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Mal Waldron / Steve Lacy: The Mighty Warriors
Mal Waldron and Steve Lacy first played together in 1958 at the Bowery neighborhood's Five Spot. Their association was long, if not necessarily prolific on record. Though their personal styles contrasted, they frequently existed in a parallel universe. Both expatriates lived in Paris, were predisposed to the avant-garde, and shared a deep appreciation for Thelonious Monk's music. They performed and recorded until 2002 when Waldron died. Barcelona-based Elemental Music Records acquired the previously unreleased recordings of Lacy and Waldron from a 1995 performance in Antwerp, Belgium. In a quartet featuring bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Andrew Cyrille, the double-disc album The Mighty Warriors is Waldron and Lacy at their best.

The Harlem-born Waldron worked downtown at Café Society in the early '50s and went on to record on several Charles Mingus recordings including Pithecanthropus Erectus (Atlantic), Jazz Composers Workshop (Savoy Records), and Mingus At The Bohemia (Debut Records), all released in 1956. Waldron was intimidated by Mingus and uncomfortable with the bassist's composing style, but the experience was creatively rewarding. His first leader date, Mal/1 (Prestige Records, 1956) was followed in 1957 by Mal/2 with John Coltrane, Jackie McLean, and Sahib Shihab on the same label. Waldron was a top pianist of his generation but often a solitary figure. When he moved to Europe, his talent was somewhat overlooked in the U.S.A.. He recorded various styles of music, from classical to jazz and film scores, and was considered a promising saxophonist until switching to piano in college.

Lacy was raised on Dixieland music, playing professionally with the likes of Pee Wee Russell and Zutty Singleton while still in his teens. His eclectic and deep catalog includes an esoteric mix of styles and genre-defying releases. He recorded with The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, issued Remains (hat ART, 1992) a solo soprano feat of improvisation, and recorded dark poetry on Packet (Naxos, 1995). His unique music is puzzling—experimental jazz and free playing but characteristically melodic and organized. He remains the most influential of soprano saxophonists.

Waldron's composition, "What It Is?," on fire for more than seventeen minutes, is a sufficient introduction for all-around extended solos. Still, the piece belongs to Waldron. Turning quickly to Monk's "Epistrophy" Lacy and Waldron hypnotically swing in their exploratory way. Lacy's mid-tempo and repetitious "Longing" takes too long to get nowhere but Monk comes to the rescue again with a rousing "Monk's Dream." The second disc contains two twenty-five-minute pieces. Opening with Workman's "Variations of III," it is a bit of a slog—part-time free improvisation, tentative phrases here and there, and finally, some progressive Dixieland. The closing piece, "Medley: Snake Out / Variations On a Theme by Cecil Taylor" brings the performance full circle in an inspiring, high-energy conclusion.

Whenever Lacy and Waldron performed together, no matter how energized the concert, the music was poetically responsive. The improvisations remain free and loose in spirit even when they are more systematized. The Mighty Warriors will be issued as a limited edition 2-LP set, followed by a 2-CD format.

Track Listing

CD 1: What It Is; Epistrophy; Longing; Monk's Dream. CD 2: Variation Of III; On A Theme By Cecil Taylor.

Personnel

Steve Lacy
saxophone, soprano

Album information

Title: The Mighty Warriors | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Elemental Music


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