Steve Lacy

Hot House

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    9
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Lacy and Waldron are so far removed from the young, glib, photogenic, hyper-technical jazz school alumni that dominate the contemporary scene, they might as well be playing a different music altogether...which they are, actually. Although on this album they draw from the same repertoire plundered by the likes of Roy Hargrove and Eric Reed, Lacy and Waldron come to it in a radically different way. There's nothing studied or canned about their interpretations, no mere recitations of memorized licks -- Lacy and Waldron come to old, familiar tunes by such composers as Ellington and Dameron as if they're playing them for the first time. Their playing lacks the superficial gloss that has almost inexplicably become the standard by which jazz seems to be measured these days. Instead, they imbue their art with the passion, spur of the moment inspiration, and general good humor that characterized jazz from its beginnings until the 1980s (when the Berklee grads and men in suits took over). Lacy is the most purely lyrical improviser in jazz, with the possible exception of Lee Konitz. Like Konitz, Lacy and Waldron seemingly have a phobia about repeating themselves. Though certain gestures recur during the course of their improvisations, those gestures (the raw materials of improvisation) are smaller than those used by younger, less resourceful players. It's as if, instead of building a house made out of prefabricated materials, Lacy and Waldron cut down the trees, split the logs, plane the wood, and nail the boards together one by one. Of course, a Lacy/Waldron house is unlikely to look as slick as one of those prefab jobs, but it will be a much nicer place in which to live. And it's a heckuva a lot more likely to weather the test of time.

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