Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron - Let's Call This... Esteem (Slam 1993, 2010)

Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy and pianist Mal Waldron had a long and productive partnership beginning in the 1950's and carrying through until the end of their careers. Both were deeply influenced by both the angular compositions of Thelonious Monk and the possibilities provided by freer forms of jazz. Recorded live in England in 1993, this is an intimate duet performed before an appreciative audience. Monk's music is a focal point of this album, with three of his compositions performed by the duo. "Monk's Dream" takes the joyous melody and develops it into a sweet, probing improvisation with Lacy yearning and poking into musical corners over Waldron's subdued piano. "Evidence" has a choppy start-stop feel, caressing the melody with care. Waldron's rippling piano and Lacy's sweetly swinging saxophone are very accessible. "Epistrophy" is the final Monk tune, and Waldron makes the most of it, building his solo block by block like a master architect. They give a nod toward Duke Ellington as well, with a very nice version of "In a Sentimental Mood." Light, yearning saxophone buoyed by a patient and thoughtful piano foundation led them through a slowly developing improvisation. After a majestic solo piano turn, Lacy returns for a patient and relaxed conclusion - two old friends playing a favorite song together. But they are not afraid to take chances as well, as can be heard by the selection "Snake Out," a long improvisation that opens with strong dark piano and swirling saxophone that builds fierce and free. Waldron slows things down in his solo section to explore the music in depth, before Lacy rejoins for an urgent and strong ending. This was a consistently interesting and compelling live album filled with spontaneous music on the edge. Waldron and Lacy were both masters of their particular arts, but there was no ego on display here, rather two men working for a common ideal of perusing the goal of creating beauty in real time. Let's Call This Esteem - amazon.com

Send comments to Tim.