Soprano saxophonist, composer and musical philosopher Steve Lacy has passed from this world and joined the other greats in the realm of legend, but this re-release featuring the American ex-pat's long-standing working quintet reminds us of the power of his music to bridge the discipline of pre-composition and the adventure of improvisation.
The trademark reiterative melodic cells that drizzle onto one's consciousness like refreshing rain are the springboards for spontaneous elaborations in the five pieces, "Blinks," "Stamps," "Prospectus," the fabled "Wickets," and the mantra-like circles of "Clichés."
Compositionally, one of the most delightful aspects of the music comes when Lacy's fine-edged soprano, one of the most mature in the idiom, combines with Irène Aebi's voice in the thematic expositions and recapitulations of "Prospectus" and "Clichés." The unison statements are tight like bebop heads, yet spring with the dynamic power of speech, an ingredient provided by the poem by Blaise Cendrars in the former tune, and words of un-ascribed origin twinned with the percussive use of the string instruments supported by a kalimba (from the sounds of it) in the latter. "Clichés," as all who've heard it know, is a tour-de-force in making magnificent music (23 minutes' worth here) out of scant ideas.
The quintet's two saxes — thanks to Steve Potts's alto and soprano that meld with or counterpoint Lacy's soprano — blend mellifluously with the cello and violin of Irène Aebi and Jean-Jacques Avenel's double bass. The texture of reeds and strings is a pleasing one not heard often enough. Percussionist Oliver Johnson rounds out the group, providing propulsive rhythmic underpinning and fluid interactions.
Caught live, this session crackles with the energy that can only come from such a situation and is undeniably a side of music worth hearing over and over again. John Corbett's profuse liner notes add highly informative and colorful text to the release.
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