Of the six pieces here, three are by Monk. Besides Criss Cross, Played Twice and Introspection are his. Of Monk's "masculine authority," Lacy has said, "Monk's tunes are the ones I most enjoy playing. I like his use of melody, harmony, and especially his rhythm. Each one that I learned left me with something invaluable and permanent. Monk's music has profound humanity, disciplined economy, balanced virility, dramatic nobility, and innocently exuberant wit." Played Twice, by the way, is fairly recent Monk (if the title seems unduly mechanical to you, hear it and see how really incongruous the theme would be if it were played only once). Criss Cross is earlier Monk, and I think, one of the major pieces by the major composer in jazz after Duke Ellington.
One of Monk's functions in jazz has surely been a kind of consolidation - the kind that the arrival of a major composer like Monk or Ellington always represents. In turn, such consolidation is usually followed by change, and it seems to me that one of the first signs that major change is on its way was the arrival of Cecil Taylor. Here, Air and Louise are both Taylor's pieces. (You can hear Taylor's own, quite different version of Air on Candid 8006, Stereo 9006). I think that Lacy is especially imaginative on Louise and once one has heard out the compelling undulations and turns of that solo, its overall cohesion add flow will also occur to him. I would call it probably the best Lacy on record (and quickly acknowledge that it has a strong rival in his solo on Ella Speed with Gil Evans).
Lacy used no piano here because he was simply too used to hearing the unique sound of Thelonious Monk behind him. He picked Charles Davis's baritone as his other horn after hearing him sit in one night at the Five Spot. Davis had been a member of trumpeter Kenny Dorham's group since the fall of 1959.
The other two players were, at the time, fellow members of Monk's sextet. To say that a bassist is "dependable" is to say a great deal, especially since the mid-forties when the bass in jazz groups began to take the rhythmic-percussive lead. To say that bassist John Ore works with a rhythmic virtuoso like Monk, whose sense of time and tempo are the envy of everyone, is to say much more. And by all means hear his introduction on Criss Cross.
The final tribute should surely go to Roy Haynes whose playing here seems to me really superb. Perhaps he is the real heir to the achievements of Max Roach in the forties. He keeps the time and simultaneously provides an astonishingly full and imaginatively varied percussive texture behind the horns. Yet, he is not in anyone's way or merely calling attention to Roy Haynes. As an introduction to all this, listen to him behind Lacy on Air. He is really participating in the music being made here. It is a difficult role; Roy Haynes fulfills it with force and with grace.
Martin Williams (liner notes)