The equality, the almost perfect balance in complement and contrast, of the musical collaboration between Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron was palpable in both its internal and external workings … These four CDs, captured live in Paris in 1981, are notable as the first documentation of their performances as a duo, a particularly felicitous exploration of common interests and uncommon talents, initiating an intermittent series of duo recordings that would span thirteen years, varying repertoire, and several labels, but never venture far from the groundwork that was established here.
An ideal companion piece, the juxtaposition of ensemble interaction, sailing and contrasting solos and even-if momentary pauses allows Mal Waldron with the Steve Lacy Quintet (basically add Lacy's longtime collaborator Waldron to the above mix) to continue the "gap concept naturally. The undeniably individual pianist adds a particular depth with resonant multi-textural playing of single notes and colorful yet dramatic chords, a perfect tonal foil at times to Lacy's atonal proclivities. Waldron once said, appropriately enough, "If there's no silence, the sound doesn't mean anything. Starting where "The Thing left off, the 18+ minute Waldron suite "Vio is followed by two of Lacy's originals: "Jump For Victor and a Monk-ish "Blue Wee , with two newly found precious alternate takes of the first two pieces.
Mal Waldron was a remarkably versatile piano player, able to work in many different contexts, from Billie Holiday to Eric Dolphy. This ability made him invaluable as musical director for Prestige Records, where the recording dates were often little more than jam sessions. Soul Eyes: The Mal Waldron Memorial Album collects 11 tracks, recorded between 1955 and 1962, that Waldron played on and/or led, including a mammoth version of the title cut, featuring John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers, and others, that clocks in at 17-plus minutes. Although all the cuts have been previously released (not always under Waldron's name), it's nice to have this overview of one of his most fertile periods.
This Silkheart release has one of the finest all-around recordings by Steve Lacy's Sextet. The leader, a longtime master of the soprano sax, is joined by the underrated altoist Steve Potts (who doubles on soprano), pianist Bobby Few, bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel, drummer Oliver Johnson, and Irene Aebi on vocals and violin. Aebi's singing, which is always an acquired taste, is as accessible as it ever was on the joyful "Gay Paree Bop"; all five compositions are Lacy originals. Overall, this set gives listeners a particularly strong example of the work of the innovative Steve Lacy Sextet.