Steve Lacy – Five Facings (1996/2008)

Steve Lacy - Five Facings (1996/2008)
Artist: Steve Lacy
Album: Five Facings
Genre: Free Improvisation
Label: Jazzwerkstatt
Year Of Release: 1996/2008
Quality: FLAC (tracks+.cue)

01. The Crust (Lacy) – 6:17
02. Blues for Aida (Lacy) – 7:50
03. Off Minor (Monk) – 7:01
04. Ruby My Dear (Monk) – 9:53
05. Evidence (Monk) – 6:22
06. Art (Lacy) – 11:53
07. Twenty One (Lacy-Van Hove) – 20:22
08. The Wane (Lacy-Van Hove) – 7:35


This set, recorded between April 4 and April 8, 1996, teamed soprano saxophone giant Steve Lacy with five different pianists. Half the cuts were composed by Lacy, three by Thelonious Monk, and one improvisation by Van Hove and Lacy — the least interesting work included here, because it didn’t work. The first five tracks would have made an album for any jazz fan, and the rest, while interesting, don’t touch the first half, and perhaps that’s because the first two pianists are Marilyn Crispell and Misha Mengelberg. Two pieces by Lacy, “The Crust” and “Blues For Aida,” start things off with Crispell playing an inspired counterpoint to the artist during the melody, moving into a piano solo that combines a total shift of Lacy’s compositional thought into an almost purely classical realm (Bruckner anyone?) before entering into a dialogue that brings the work back to the jazz tradition, and there is no seam. On the next, she provides a chordal framework for the artist to explore the complexities inherent in his own work. He rolls and tweaks pitches to find himself between those voicings before shedding them and taking Crispell with him for a long and knotty ride. The three Monk tunes with Mengelberg — “Off Minor,” “Ruby My Dear,” “Evidence” — are the heart of the recording. Both men being obsessed with the work of Monk to the point of no return nonetheless have different ways of reading him. Mengelberg with his extended reading of Monk’s already extended chord structures, and Lacy with his inherent absorption of Monk’s ideas about melodic range and possibility. It’s a little uneasy at first, since the individual approaches are so different, but gels within two minutes of “Off Minor.” What follows for the next 20 minutes is a ride through the mind of Monk as seen by two of its keen postmortem musicological psychologists! Every aspect of Monk’s compositions is explored and re-examined with smaller, previously unnoticed fragments of harmonic invention and architecture brought to the fore as melodic frameworks. Neither man tries to exemplify his own skill as a player, it’s all how playing what one perceives to be the truth in these works. The rest of the set is satisfying enough: there isn’t anything boring or uninteresting in anything here, but given the amazing 35 minutes that preceded it, it just pales in comparison. Nonetheless, programming one’s CD player in reverse would make for an even more satisfying listening experience. We are fortunate to have all of these recordings.
Review by Thom Jurek

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