It's a Lacy sandwich. Sort of. Between the opening and closing slices of "Bone" and Monk's "Locomotive," we get to hear some real free-range chicken, so to speak, said tunes played relatively straight, with clearly recognizable heads and a unity swing. (Throw them into the lunch bucket, too.) And, except for the lurching closer "Locomotive," the remaining seven Steve Lacy cuts have dedications, the bouncy "Bone" going to Lester Young. Selected cuts are part of something larger, based on poems and a painting. It's The Whammies Play The Music Of Steve Lacy.
Lacy's spirit alone is here. He left the planet in 2004. And in his wake are a whole bunch of fans, followers, influencers. Among them are the crew here, young and old, the most obvious link being drummer/all-around inciter Han Bennink, maker of the catchy cover art.
From the opening sounds of Jeb Bishop's probing trombone and Jorrit Dijkstra's popping alto sax, the production of Dijkstra and pianist Pandelis Karayorgis is the sustain of a world that's close by, as if this quintet plus one (violinist/violist Mary Oliver supplying delicious, piquant colors on half the tracks) were in your living room, floors carpeted with sofas that are pillowy and welcoming. This is very conversational music, a music that may pack more of a wallop if you know Lacy's music. The references are there and here, ones that this reviewer likely may have missed. In that sense, the CD rises or falls, connects or maybe sounds like, as another quirky, out-there outing.
All said, Play The Music Of Steve Lacy rewards with repeated listenings. Bennink's drums "typically" sound like something thrown together, his untethered big- band whacking alternating with sensitive, tickling percussives as when he plays foreground/background on a creeping "As Usual" (to Piet Mondrian) and the scampering "The Wire," the leftover swing from "Bone" seemingly permeating the ensemble. "The Wire" (to Albert Ayler) begins with Karayorgis' pummeling piano, which sets the stage for the wheels to fall off this group grope. It's fun, especially as we hear all members wandering in and out of the loosely defined choruses, all of it buttressed by Nate McBride's sturdy, dependable and altogether tethered bass (great, in-the-pocket solo on "Locomotive," by the way). "Ducks" (to Ben Webster) is kinda ducky, experimental, picking up where "The Wire" left off, moments of calm maybe making you think of Bean. Maybe. But Bishop does make me think of Roswell Rudd. A bit of swing returns with "Dutch Masters" (to Spike Jones & the City Slickers), Karayorgis' chordals (and solo) touchtones to this very musical number, recalling an early Cecil Taylor in the company of Mr. Lacy. Bishop and Dijkstra can play off each other like rambunctious, outlaying dixielanders from time to time, the solos from "Dutch Masters" that emerge offering some respite from the overall musical clamor. Footnote: Dijkstra's alto spooks as an approximation of Lacy's soprano on "Locomotive."
It's loose-limbed, an energetic appreciation aimed at the spirit of one of jazz's true, ongoing voices, one surmising Steve would approve of the interpretative feel that runs across Play The Music Of Steve Lacy. (The band's name derives from the lively, outlandish tune of the same name; think Fats Navarro, to boot!) These folks are in with both feet, eager hands and hearts. A tasty sandwich, you betcha.
Bone; As Usual; The Wire; Ducks; Dutch Masters; I Feel A Draft; The Whammies!; Locomotive.
Jorrit Dijkstra, alto saxophone, lyricon; Pandelis Karayorgis, piano; Jeb Bishop, trombone;
Mary Oliver (2, 3, 6, 7), violin, viola; Nate McBride, bass; Han Bennink, drums.
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