Thursday, November 01, 2007

Steve Lacy & Roswell Rudd – Early and Late (Cuneiform, 2007)

Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy and trombonist Roswell Rudd performed together many times over the course of their respective careers, beginning as dixieland revivalists and then moving into modern and free jazz. This two disc archival set features live concert recordings from 1999 and 2002 and also early demo recordings that the two cut way back in 1962. On the concert recordings, Lacy and Rudd are joined by Lacy's trio regular partners, Jean-Jacques Avenel on bass and John Betcsh on drums. They have an easygoing familiarity with each other and Rudd readily adapts to their rhythm. The first disc is dominated by lengthy explorations of several Lacy themes, and the band keeps a wide open but not atonal pace going where melodies bubble up and fade as each take solos. A nice bass interlude is incorporated into “The Hoot,” while "Blinks" has a choppy melody, followed by a patient smearing trombone solo. Lacy sweeps in prodded by fast drumming adding some overblown train like notes to his swooping and swirling solo. Their performance of Thelonious Monk's “Light Blue” is short and pithy with the musicians caressing the melody. Disc two is highlighted by the four early demo recordings with Bob Cunningham on bass and Dennis Charles on drums. Short, sweet and fresh as paint it's a shame a full album couldn't have been released at the time, it would have fit in very well with the music being made at that time by Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor. Their love on Monk shines through here as well with a joyful improvisation on “Think of One.” This is another fine archival release for Cuneiform. The sound quality of the music is quite good and there are lengthy liner notes detailing the sessions. The interplay between Rudd and Lacy (and the bands as a whole) is crisp and inventive and they show an authoritative knowledge of the past and present of jazz.

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