Steve Lacy 3, Steve Lacy Trio, and Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd

N.Y. Capers & Quirks, The Rent, and Monk's Dream (hatOLOGY)

Record Reviews

Steve Lacy 3

N.Y. Capers & Quirks (hatOLOGY)

Steve Lacy Trio

The Rent (Cavity Search)

Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd

Monk's Dream (Verve)

In the early Sixties, while still a sideman for Thelonious Monk, Steve Lacy formed the School Days quartet with trombonist Roswell Rudd. Already looked upon as a bit of an oddball for his choice of instrument, this new group cemented Lacy's reputation; School Days' repertoire consisted entirely of Monk compositions. At the time, such a thing was unheard of, and labels fled when they saw the group coming, resulting in sparse recordings. Lacy had begun his career as a Dixieland fanatic, and while emulating Sidney Bechet, learned the soprano saxophone -- the smooth-toned offspring of the alto sax and clarinet. Cecil Taylor and Monk would forever alter Lacy's traditional ways, yet his choice of instruments stuck, and he found himself alone in jazz on the instrument for nearly a decade until John Coltrane picked up the horn. This only partly explains Lacy's uniqueness. Though stylistically similar to Monk, he found his own voice with fluid lines and supple grace. Lacy's reunion with former School Days members Rudd (on Monk's Dream) and drummer Dennis Charles (on N.Y. Capers) marks no special occasion; in fact, the recordings were made 20 years apart. Yet both sessions reach back to a more adventurous time, and seem to draw on renewed energy. Rudd makes the perfect foil for Lacy's serpentine patterns, the trombonists' power, particularly on sections where both improvise together, pushing the tension ever higher. N.Y. Capers is better still, Lacy focusing intently on a delightful batch of originals on this 1979 trio date. Oddly, there are only two Monk compositions between them, both on Dream. As Lacy becomes a jazz elder, he's adapting some of his former mentor's habits, settling in like an old shoe with his longtime rhythm section, the rock-solid Jean-Jacques Avenel and the sometimes heavy-handed John Betsch. With them, he has recorded such signature tunes as "The Bath," "The Rent," and "The Door" repeatedly. The three tunes appear both on Dream and The Rent, a live date from 1979. Whereas Dream's newer compositions seem denser and more stilted (due largely to the vocals of wife Irene Arabi), the trio is pleasantly buoyed on Rent; they separate, stretch out, and rejoin in telepathic fashion, exploring the material from every angle, led by a far-reaching and keen perspective that has yet to even begin to diminish.

(N.Y. Capers & Quirks) ****.5

(The Rent/Monk's Dream) ****

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