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At 65 years young, Steve Lacy continues to build upon his vast recorded legacy with boundless creative spirit and full-fledged determination while his contributions to modern jazz are well documented and legendary. On The Rent Lacy along with long time musical associates, bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel (b) and drummer John Betsch explore the Trio format within the acoustically lush and sonorous “Old Church in Portland”. Here, Lacy and co. perform with grace and aplomb! The audience reaction is kept intact which clearly indicates the excitement and enthusiasm shared between performer and audience on November 11th 1997. A 2 disc set, The Rent given its environs combined with the often majestic mastery of the musician’s performances is inviting and precious as if it were a museum piece.
Disc 1 features Monk’s “Shuffle Boil” which is the Trio’s standard opening number. Highlights here are: John Betsch’ finely crafted bop-ish drumming which is served well throughout by the wonderful acoustics, complimenting the rich resonance of his drum kit. Lacy’s historical ties to Thelonius Monk shine here, through absorbing lyricism and lavishly stated themes. On “Blinks”, Lacy interjects a Dixieland motif inspired by the late trombonist Kid Ory. Here, Lacy combines modern bop time signatures often skirting the fringes of free jazz. One of the key components throughout the duration of this recording is the “live” feel and ample breathing room the Trio allows itself for soloing. Monk’s looming effect on Lacy’s compositional style is evident on “The Bath”, as Lacy’s laid back, bluesy phrasing is easily identifiable with Monk’s odd-metered, thematic approach. “The Rent” commences with an enticing Latin cha-cha motif, which segues into a series of Blues orientated statements. Lacy displays his mastery of imagery through articulate expressionism. On “The Rent”, bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel maintains a samba-like pulse yet flaunts his harmonic skills which provides synergy and a solid foundation for Betsch’ inventive and quite melodic drum solo. On this piece, Betsch may have had the great Max Roach in mind! “Prayer” features a simple theme yet is fittingly spiritual given the live atmosphere while performing in a church. Here, Lacy gets the most out of his soprano by stretching and bending notes to great effect.
Disc 2 highlights are: Lacy’s composition titled, “Retreat” as Lacy’s circular phrasing and thematic statements transcend into a Blues riff and alternates as an engaging, upbeat mid-tempo swing. On this piece, the listener is invited into Lacy’s mind, as the great saxophonist seems to be immersed in a trance through his explicit and quite animated phrasing cultivated and told from the voice in his soul......... “Gospel” is a straight-ahead swing number as Lacy darts, dances and skirts the slightly suggested recurring theme. “Bone” is loaded with lucid imagery, as Lacy is the vocalist, utilizing his soprano as a voice to sing a song. Lacy also injects some humor towards the end of this piece with soft-spoken yet affable rap banter.
The Rent is an absolutely remarkable recording and much credit goes to Avenel and Betsch for their truly inspired performances. Plenty of solo space, depth and wonderfully recorded, The Rent stands out in glowing fashion as one of Lacy’s finest and most satisfying recordings of recent years. Then again it is often difficult to keep pace with Lacy’s ongoing yet voluminous discography; however, this one should be deemed essential listening.. * * * * *
Steve Lacy; Soprano Saxophone, Voice: Jean-Jacques Avenel; Acoustic Bass: John Betsch; Drums.
Recorded Live 11/30/97 at The Old Church Portland, OR.