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.
Pianist Mal Waldron's music is characterized by a heavily-brooding rhythmic quality, with the left hand usually carrying the theme at one repetitious tempo while the right hammers away in juxtaposition with a counter tempo (usually faster). Such was the case with "Up Popped the Devil," "Snake Out" and "Changachangachang," three very Waldronian pieces in both structure and execution, the latter deriving its melody from the whole-tone scale. Aside from Waldron, the record's strongest points were bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Billy Higgins, their work being sensitive and supportive throughout.
This double-CD reissues the nine numbers from a former double LP, adding three previously unreleased tunes from the same Switzerland concert. The Steve Lacy Five (the leader on soprano, Steve Potts on alto and soprano, Irene Aebi on cello, violin and vocals, bassist Kent Carter and drummer Oliver Johnson) is at its best on scalar-based instrumentals such as the near-classic "Blinks." Some tunes utilize the voices of Aebi and Lacy, and these are often quite eccentric and for more selective tastes. But the many strong solos by Lacy and the highly underrated altoist Potts makes this two-fer of interest for followers of advanced jazz. This was always a well-organized and highly original group.
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This gives a good picture of Lacy's range in the 1970s. Solos, some very stretched out ensemble work, some of the best Aebi I've heard. There's even a snippet of Lacy playing Satie––if you visit the Satie Museum in Honfleur you'll heard a beauteous solo of his, and he played Satie in a few European concerts, recordings of which exist and should be issued. The three-CD box set that makes up Scratching the Seventies/Dreams represents Steve Lacy's first expatriate records in Paris beginning with sessions in June of 1969 and concluding in 1977 with six of the seven members of the Steve Lacy Septet (pianist Bobby Few was not yet on board). Here, five complete albums tell the story of that decade in the musical aesthetic of Steve Lacy's development as an artist as well as a composer and bandleader.