In this context, a few vividly memorable "moments" merit being shared here:


In The Door, Rudd started his solo with lyrical and somber grunts in the low register of the trombone, leading first to a subtle quote of the famous four-notes knocking line of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, then rephrased the line by tapping on his mouthpiece with the palm of his hand, soon joined by Lacy's own knocking on the closed piano lid, while Avenel echoed the line on his bass with his knuckle and Betsch also added the line to his colorful solo... Quite smart, very picturesque and entertaining. Haydn (to whom the piece is dedicated, and who liked to use knocking rhythms in his music) must have been smiling in appreciation.


  • a carefully soft, smooth and soothing rendition of The Bath, with a very tender solo by Lacy (very appropriate for such relaxing private moment, as he likes to announce the piece as "time for our daily ablution"), which prompted Rudd to comment aloud, at the end of Lacy's solo: "Nice Bath"! (By the way, has anyone else noticed that The Bath is consistently the second tune played in Lacy's sets?).

Steve Lacy at Iridium
Photo (c) Gilles Laheurte

  • an electrifying Blinks, with a very long and loud solo by Rudd who was enjoying the stimulation of a fast / frantic bass line, which led him to quote Rollins' St-Thomas and even There goes the weasel, ending the first set in a bright sparkling solo by Betsch.
  • a respectful, rather solemn Esteem -- an homage to Johnny Hodges -- with Rudd surprisingly playing atonal lines ala Schoenberg (or so it seemed), Lacy picking-up delicately elements of the theme, exploring them one after the other, remaining so totally pure, nothing ever being forced, leading to a voluptuous solo by Avenel, and to a majestic ending by Betsch, alone, pounding drums and cymbals with his mallets, bringing slowly the homage to a quiet peace, and to silence.


Special note: Max Roach was in the audience that night.

A mesmerizing second set overall, in particular the new composition Grey Blue, quite lengthily explored, (over 20 minutes), which was very likely the most intense moment of the entire week: Rudd listened religiously to Lacy's magnificently fluid solo, and, before starting his own, paid a deeply emotional verbal tribute to Lacy for his lifelong friendship, for the first job he was offered from him on Monday night gigs in 1960, for having had in this lifetime the chance to experience Lacy's unique soprano sound, and for his "being here tonight" as a special guest. As he put it so humbly: "what a ride it is for me!" Everyone, including Lacy himself, was profoundly moved...


By the middle of the first set, it was "time to give a hoot" (was Lacy intentionally sarcastic to the club?), as the tune The Hoot was announced: Lacy indeed gave more than one hoot and pushed his soprano into colorful overtones and altissimo register notes that John Gilmore (to whom the tune is dedicated) would have loved to hear.


  • the daily ablution of The Bath (again, the second piece of the set!) inspired Roswell Rudd to talk about "the gift of water", then to invite the audience to be respectful of its use, and to slowly bring his solo in a facetious imitation of the sound of running water in the tub: a humorous display of pretty wild (but masterfully controlled) sounds! In contrast, Lacy chose a more intimate and sober expression of the solitary experience of such private routine by using sustained, smoothing, long notes.
  • the Ellington medley of In a Mellotone and Ko-Ko was a swinging and joyful reprise of its first presentation at Caramoor a week earlier. This time, musicians made even more open references to Dixie tunes (Rose Room, in particular), Rudd using his rubber mute very effectively and quoting some very famous classical trombone licks (Sam Nanton, Kid Ory).
  • "And now it's time to pay the rent, hum, to play The Rent, was how Lacy announced the last tune of the evening... "I don't have to, I own my place", replied Avenel... On this humorous tone, right after the theme, Lacy started in flying colors. Greatly inspired, he delivered a long solo, seemingly never wanting to stop, expressing clearly all the ideas flowing to his mind, while Rudd kept singing and mumbling: "Pay the rent! Pay the rent!" in his impressively large mouthpiece, which no doubt stimulated Lacy to go into grinding phrases as if to rebel against such obligation. Betsch's Chachacha beat was so catchy that, surprisingly, Lacy actually danced on the jazzy bouncing phrases of Rudd's animated solo, an unforgettable sight!

Roswell Rudd at Iridium
Photo (c) Gilles Laheurte


When it was time to say goodbye, words from Eric Dolphy came to mind: "when you play music, after it's over, it's gone in the air. You can never capture it again". How sadly true... And it appears to be so now that the Iridium gig is over.

But, with the new Lacy/ Rudd/ Avenel/ Betsch CD coming in just a few months, and with a little patience, everyone lucky enough to have been present -- if only for one set -- will be able to "capture" that wonderful music again. For good, this time, and with no rudeness from the club's unpleasant floor manager...

It will be the time to forget about the musicians' rather ephemeral "partnership" with Iridium. Listening to the new CD and to the historically important School Days album, it may also be time to reflect upon our own "school days", where some friendships born out of that youthful exciting learning experience may have already faded away, while others remain strong as steel. The Lacy/Rudd pairing is a perfect example of such enduring friendships. It demonstrates that with maturity, one's deep-rooted character traits, a certain vision of life and mutual respect are what make such associations so special and last a lifetime.

Gilles Laheurte, 11 August 1999