Steve Lacy Quartet


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In this album's liner notes, Lacy explains that his quartet began as a streamlined version of his sextet, designed to play venues that can't afford the larger band. It certainly became much more than that; it might be posited that the quartet is the more conventionally jazz-like of the two bands. With vocalist/cellist Irene Aebi and pianist Bobby Few added, Lacy's tunes take on a bit more classical, "new music" air. The quartet, however, is a more rough-and-ready outfit, with the interplay between Lacy and fellow saxophonist Steve Potts taking on more importance. The two play extraordinarily well together. Lacy is a much more suave player than Potts, whose work has a sort of awkward, ungainly air, but whose playing is as devoid of contrivance as any improviser one could name. Bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel is a fine, hard-swinging, unfussy player with a clean technique, and drummer John Betsch is the tasteful, energetic, well-rounded percussionist Lacy's music requires. The band is refined in the best sense -- the tunes are intricate, the execution clean -- yet capable of generating great force. Intensity is a given, even in the quietest, most introspective sections. Much was made in the early '90s (when this record was made) of the jazz tradition. This music is a fine example of what happens when a visionary musician makes something extending and expanding upon the tradition his life's work. An excellent disc.

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