Steve Lacy: Evidence + Reflections

Pairing of 1958 and 1961 sets features the soprano saxophonist with Don Cherry, Mal Waldron, Wynton Kelly and others

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The two albums (plus one bonus track) from early in Lacy’s career coupled here are thus available for the umpteenth time on CD, but we live in a world where recycling in the broadest sense of the term is a virtue worth signalling, and in this instance further availability is justified given the quality of the music involved.

Lacy’s work with Mal Waldron, as documented on the Reflections album which makes up the second part of the set but which predates Evidence by three years, was destined to be recorded irregularly over the years, and the exposure was more than justified given how the duo’s intuitive responses evolved and how they honed and refined their musicianship more generally, and not merely in terms of how they approached Monk and Ellington and Strayhorn’s music in particular.

At this early stage the sly inscrutability that might be regarded as a mark of their shared work is less entrenched than it was destined to be, as exemplified by Let’s Call This, which for all of its relative “straightness” still comes with hallmarks of distinction.

Lacy and Don Cherry might seem unlikely front-line partners given Lacy’s adherence to the schools of Monk and Cecil Taylor and Cherry’s to the school of Ornette Coleman, but as it turns out their work, arguably more so than ever, highlights how a meeting of minds happens.

The point is emphasised by the track listing that makes up Evidence, and lent further substance by the reading of Ellington’s The Mystery Song, which lives up to its title in both the compositional and performance senses, while Monk’s hyper-distinctive (even by his standards) San Francisco Holiday highlights Cherry’s gift for getting down to melodic essence in a manner entirely free of rhetorical emptiness, and proves also that Lacy’s gift for forensic inquiry was in place even in 1961.

Discography
The Mystery Song; Evidence; Let’s Cool One; San Francisco Holiday; Something To Live For; Who Knows; Four In One; Reflections; Hornin’ In; Bye-Ya; Let’s Call This; Ask Me Now; Skippy; Day Dream (75.16)
Lacy (ss) on all tracks with, collectively: Don Cherry (t); Mal Waldron, Wynton Kelly (p); Carl Brown, Buell Neidlinger (b); Billy Higgins, Elvin Jones, Dennis Charles (d). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1 November 1961 (Evidence), Hackensack, New Jersey, 17 October 1958 (Reflections). Bonus track (Day Dream) Hackensack, New Jersey, 1 November 1957.
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