Another essential purchase from Elemental that leaves one wondering just how many of these outstanding previously unreleased gems there are to be discovered.

Elemental Music CD/LP

Steve Lacy (soprano saxophone); Mal Waldron (piano); Reggie Workman (bass); Andrew Cyrille (drums)

Recorded September 30, 1995

This previously unrelease performance was recorded as part of a series of concerts celebrating Mal Waldron’s seventieth birthday. Adding Lacy to the pianist’s existing trio was a no brainer and the music produced by what amount to a supergroup was quite exceptional.

Waldron and Lacy had been long time collaborators since first sharing a stage in 1958. Both musicians had played countless on countless gigs and numerous albums to together, but in this rarefied improvised music that we term loosely as jazz the music sounds as vibrant and vital as anytime in their collaborative history.

The two discs that make this beautifully packaged set, there is as always with Elemental projects a detailed booklet with interviews and an in-depth article by Adam Shatz, can conveniently be divided into two distinctly different sets. Disc one offers the more structured and composition with the quartet exploring two pieces by Monk in ‘Epistrophy’ and ‘Monk’s Dream’, and one a piece by Walson and Lacy.

As two of the finest exponents and interpreters of Monk’s music, Lacy and Waldron really dig deep into the music. A studied approach to these compositions they may be utterly compelling. Steve Lacy pulls an immaculately constructed melodic solo out of ‘Monk’s Dream’, while Waldron’s solo is full of charm and lyricism that is cliche free.

Mal Waldron’s ‘What It Is’ is a real swinging affair propelled by Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille, and the saxophone swirls and soars before Waldron simply lets fly at the piano with that deep sense of swing. Lacy’s piece ‘Longing’ is a more austere proposition but appears very much to the pianist’s liking in another surprising solo.

The second disc comprises two long pieces which while they are credited to Workman and Waldron they are more freely constructed and allow for far more spontaneity. ‘Variation on III’ by Reggie Workman opens with the bassist’s solo alternating between arco and pizzicato passages that change at an alarming rate yet produce the effect of duetting with himself. As the quartet come together and the tension is allowed to build as the music ebbs and flows, the conversation between the four musicians occasionally fragments into smaller components before once again conversing as an ensemble. Lacy’s penchant for working off small fragments of melody is given free rein in an unaccompanied interlude that leads into a dialogue with drummer, Andrew Cyrille.

The concert concludes with Mal Waldron’s ‘Medley: Snake Out / Variations on a Theme by Cecil Taylor’ that burst forth with dark ominous voicing from the pianist’s left hand and gradually works through group interplay off the central theme into a feature for Andrew Cyrille prior to what is perhaps the main event in an extended solo piano improvisation from Waldron.

Another essential purchase from Elemental that leaves one wondering just how many of these outstanding previously unreleased gems there are to be discovered.