There were many brilliant moments. But the following remain particularly vivid:

Wednesday night (1st set):

Wait for tomorrow, the deeply melancholic tune from Vespers, dedicated to Keith Haring, was engrossing. Roswell Rudd's solo, very subdued, dark and bluesy, lyrical and delicate, was followed by Lacy's in the same subtle vein: abstractedly pensive, with a few crazy quirks and "envolées", not meant to break but rather to intensify the somber quality of the piece. Avenel’s solo was slow, intense, enormously colorful, totally introverted, almost heavily and contagiously romantic... Betsch's solo was played, stunningly, mostly with his fingers, no sticks, no brushes, no mallets, ending with a smartly restrained Zen like use of his tiny bell and cymbals. A gem!

Thursday night (2nd set):

Softly announced by Lacy as: "we have a longing to play a piece called... Longing"… this glowing song, even without its powerful Portuguese words (from Fernando Pessoa), was hypnotizing from beginning to end. Right after the theme, Rudd had walked off the stage during Avenel’s ardent solo... Rudd thus “inaugurated” his new horn unseen, hidden in the recessed entrance to the artists' lounge, his back turned away from the stage, playing subtle counterpoints to Avenel’s solo, slowly making his way back to the stage. What a beautifully mellow tone, and what controlled tension! Only one word comes to mind of their duo interplay: WOW !
Lacy followed and delivered a delicate yet quite “incantatory” improvisation, fueled with the pounding mallet work of John Betsch who closed the piece wailing into his inverted snare drum. The piece was not unlike "un recueillement" (a meditation). It was almost – and this is not being written lightly — a religious experience. The music was that powerful.

Friday night (2nd set):

This long version of the tune dedicated to Haydn opened The Door to some splendid musical textures. Pushed by Betsch’s and Avenel’s initial fast pulse, Rudd’s new trombone and his old “faithful” rubber mute were put to good use in clever wahwahs and sliding warped notes. Lacy followed with a series of surprising twisted phrases, placing a few outbursts of carefully dosed overtones, grunts, and sky high notes…
Avenel’s solo was once again impressively full of amazing virtuoso fingerings, exploring several chords at the same time, while Betsch’s smart contribution glided into a humorous exploration of the brushes’ sounds in the air: no contact with cymbals or toms, just a sober delicate counterpoint rhythm with his bass drum. Quite ethereal, and almost eerie. Simply splendid till the last note…

Throughout the week:

Other highs worth mentioning are, notably:

Two other tunes, played every night, deserve a special note: Lacy’s popular The Bath, and Roswell Rudd's Bamako.
The time to share the quartet’s daily “Bath” is always welcome to audiences, as it is a lovely and much appreciated tune, always (so far) the second piece played in a Lacy set… Featuring Avenel’s voluptuous bass sound and Betsch’s very soft use of his brushes, it is always a pleasure to abandon oneself to such smooth relaxing interlude. What was amusing one evening (Saturday) was to observe the group play the tune, with a … fluffy white bath towel lying right in the middle of the stage, next to Rudd’s lubricating oil bottles: intentional? Probably not, but appropriate? Most certainly (at least for those with an unusual sense of humor). Too bad there was no camera to record the uniqueness of the “moment”….

Every version of the band’s daily excursion to “Bamako” was a treat. It is a wonderfully swinging tune with a catchy phrase, which opens wide many possible landscapes of bright improvisations, in which both Rudd and Betsch jump into wholeheartedly, have fun, and take us along on an exotic imaginary trip to Africa. Occasionally, but quite appropriately, Lacy threw in a few wild quirks sounding like strange tropical birds’ calls. Avenel, each time, never failed to make his lines sound genuinely African, showing how much he knows of both hip stuff and traditional African music, demonstrating brilliantly at the same time how to use a bass to create an indigenous mood. “Simplement Génial”. It would be interesting someday to hear the quartet play the tune with Avenel’s magnificent cora (his 20 string African harp)…

And there was Jean-Jacques!

The Jazz Standard

Bravo! The highest praise must be given to Jean-Jacques Avenel. Plainly, his bass lines are the real fulcrum of the band, one of the many possible reasons for the ample solo time given to him in almost every tune. Every time, the audience is mesmerized. True, his sound has always been colorful, warm, and passionate. But his virtuoso improvisations have now reached a level of creativity in his textures, ambiguity in his shifting accents, and of intense lyricism not often heard on the instrument. Yet he remains so badly underrated… It is incomprehensible, if not shameful, to see such extraordinary talent remain so unnoticed. He deserves so much wider recognition. It is hoped that comprehensive articles about him will soon be published in the music press, and that a long-overdue CD will eventually be released (there have been informal talks of a duo CD Lacy / Avenel for some time, but alas without any concrete outcome to this date). Unquestionably, he is an exceptional bass player, one of the greatest of today.

And of course, there was Thelonious Monk, whose spirit and immense presence were felt every night, in every tune. In fact, during this engagement, the number of Monk’s tunes was more numerous than in the past gigs, this time no less than ten of them: In Walked Bud, Shuffle Boil, Off Minor, Bye-Ya, Light Blue, Pannonica, Well You Needn’t, Bemsha Swing, Epistrophy, and Monk’s Dream.

All were played intelligently and delightfully, in the way the musicians respected the true spirit of the composer’s inventions, and also in the way they went so freely through all the implications of the basic root of each tune. Light Blue, played as a duo encore to Saturday’s last set, stands out among them as the opportunity to hear the two “accomplices” deconstruct and rebuild the melody line in a most sober, tender and intimate way.

And lastly, for those who may have been wondering why there’s never a sheet music on the stand for any of the Monk’s tunes played by the band… Roswell Rudd summed it up at the end of Thursday’s last set: “It’s Monk’s Dream up here!”. It’s that simple. But to this writer and to many who were present, this was no small dream. It was a dream come true.

Gilles Laheurte, 15 March 2000