Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron: A Case Of Plus 4's
A Case of Plus 4's
Snake-Out (Hat Hut 3501)
Recorded: Paris, August 14, 1981
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
Steve Lacy's work with pianist Mal Waldron underscores his attachment to the jazz mainstream. For while a performance such as this can (and does) go far "out" in virtually every respect, Waldron's insistence on a perceptible—if ever-shifting—beat behind Lacy allows the music to maintain a solid grounding. Thus, Lacy is able to engage in whatever flights of fancy he prefers and remain anchored by Waldron's obstinate adherence to swing and syncopated rhythms.
Lacy takes full advantage. His solo goes over, beneath, and around Waldron's vamps. Lacy almost never lands on a beat. Instead of viewing time as a ticking clock, he sees it as an open space he can fill in an infinite variety of ways. Hence, he skips, lags, and rushes over Waldron's steady accompaniment, his lines consisting not only of notes but also highly vocalized inflections and a huge assortment of tonal effects. In another, less jazz-like context, the music might come off as experimental, but in company with Waldron, it seems more like a greatly personalized take on the tradition.
That's not to nullify Waldron's contribution as an equal partner. "A Case of Plus 4's" is his tune, a brief but inventive platform. And his relatively restrained solo interlude is thoughtfully drawn, in effective contrast to Lacy's more active, expressionistic approach. This is an extraordinarily creative and intense performance. Lacy and Waldron make a great team—a more accomplished jazz duo would be hard to find.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey