Less than a year ago, Steve Lacy and Roswell Rudd at long last reunited and rekindled their 40 year long musical association, starting to record and tour together again. Every jazz fan, musician and music critic knowledgeable about their rather unique partnership, and interested in their music, recognized their "getting together again" as an important move in their respective careers.
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In this perspective, the full page photograph of "the intrepid duo" (Steve Lacy / Roswell Rudd, pictured in 1961) which served as the cover of the "Voice Choices" section of NYs weekly Village Voice, is a good example of the importance which should be given to Steve Lacy's current quartet and its ongoing American Tour , which started last week at the Jazz Standard. As Music Critic Gary Giddins summed it up in the Voice's shortlist: "An event". And for sure, all those fortunate enough to have gone to the club for the occasion will agree with the statement that it was, indeed, an event, and quite a remarkable one.
Yes, this was the same quartet recorded on Monk's Dream (Verve), released in the USA just a few days before the Tour (good timing!). Yes, this was the same quartet New York audiences had the opportunity to "discover" last July at the idyllic Caramoor Festival, and hear extensively a few days later at the arrogant Iridium club. And yes, these were (mostly) the same familiar challenging tunes, so typical of Lacy's witty musical universe.
But what a difference since their previous gig in town, what a striking venue this was, spiced up with a few (bonus) surprises:
Now for the music. The first two pieces on opening night sounded cautious, even restrained, yet had a gentle rolling swing. Maybe too gentle. It felt like the band was searching its proper balance, and it probably was just that. The two tunes most certainly permitted the four musicians to pull out of their respective jetlags, quietly warm up "live", and reconnect. Once they did, the music was promptly taken to new heights of intensity and inventiveness, as early as the fourth tune of the first set, Wait For Tomorrow (see below). Every night was filled with excitement. By the end of the engagement, the general opinion was that there was not a single weak set, all were electrifying.
To this writer, the excitement goes a step further: a subtle yet noticeable metamorphosis has taken place in a bare few months. The musicians' empathy and its resulting music, like great wine, has matured into some remarkable grand cru ...
"Un épanouissement phénoménal"
Words alone will never suffice to adequately describe and render justice to the very original music heard for five consecutive nights. But the leaders inventive genius can most certainly be summed up into two words: "Intarissable et infatiguable" (inexhaustible and indefatigable).
An amateur videotape was made of portions of Sunday night's first set, with the leaders and the clubs permission. It is hoped that, someday, some extracts will be properly exploited despite the average quality of the tape compared to today's digital recording standards so that this writer's enthusiasm for the music can be appreciated and shared by all Lacy fans and profanes alike.
Gilles Laheurte, 15 March 2000