|Quite frankly, the music played last night is rather difficult
to describe. To this writer, it was clear that Steve Lacy was
impressively comfortable with everything: although travelling
extensively, he showed no sign of fatigue at all. Quite the contrary,
he seemed totally energized by all the music he had been playing
night after night prior to coming to New York, brilliantly expressing
his own musical ideas, as if insouciant of the presence of his
In fact, total silence -- almost religious silence -- from the audience could be heard every time he played a solo. He was in his own world, no matter what was happening around him. On the other end, the other musicians' contribution -- besides a few rare moments - seemed too often out of context with what the tunes were really about.
Yet, the rhythm section did its very best to keep things moving. There were occasional surges of intensity, but there was no real warmth on the bass and nothing truly convincing on the drums (Jean-Jacques Avenel virtuoso bass and John Betsch's subtle dosage of drumming were profoundly missed).
It seems that the main problem was with Don Byron himself. Although an awesome virtuoso on the clarinet (a very difficult instrument to play well) he consistently and regretfully showed no real understanding of Monk's music or of Lacy's compositions. His playing, although quite clever and brilliant at times, made it look like he was trying to camouflage his lack of understanding of the music through some futile virtuoso attempt to play fast and show off his masterful control of the clarinet... Unfortunately this was not enough to trained ears... It just did not sound right. Too often, it just sounded like "n'importe quoi", his improvisations having little to do with the tune's structure and -- more importantly -- to the tune's spirit...
|Most of the time, he sounded like he was trying on the clarinet to imitate Lacy's high register stratospheric soprano notes, but without any real or apparent logical purpose. Most of the evening, he could be seen standing on the side of the stage, grimacing in puzzlement and/or amazement (read: incomprehension...?) to Lacy's sharp and witty solos. Actually, the fact that Bone and Blinks were played twice in a single evening does seem to reveal Don Byron's difficulty in relating to Lacy's angular tunes, as these two compositions were obviously the most accessible to him musically, and also the easiest to improvise on... In addition, it was a disturbing sight to witness a well-known artist -- and regretfully, so repeatedly -- trampling without respect over music sheets he had carelessly and consciously let drop on the stage floor... A rather tasteless and unprofessional attitude...|
Gilles Laheurte, 18 October 1999 - revised 07 November 1999