According to the liner notes of this new edition, Steve Lacy walked into the ESP-Disk offices in New York in 1966 and offered to sell Bernard Stollman a tape of a concert he had recorded with his quartet during a concert in Argentina (where they had been stranded). That band was truly an international one: Lacy and Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava made up the front line, and the rhythm section included South African expats Johnny Dyani on bass and drummer Louis Moholo -- who had both been members of the Blue Notes and the Brotherhood of Breath with Chris McGregor. Engineer Ken Robertson brought the tape back to Stollman in 1992, claiming the entire album had been recorded out of phase. This makes sense given the lags on the original. The remastered and reissued CD version issued in 2008 claims to have fixed that problem. It hardly matters. The musical interaction that takes place over 40 minutes here is compelling, fraught with openness and the willingness to explore the margins. Unlike a lot of the other "new thing" recordings made at the time, the focus here is unusually rich, expressive, colorful, and easy on the ears -- though it may not have been at the time. Lacy, who came up playing in Dixieland groups before he heard Thelonious Monk, had been increasingly influenced by the music of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Albert Ayler. His own exploration of his chosen instrument, the soprano saxophone, is all evident here in the manner in which he is considering new tonal, textural, and color possibilities as a soloist and as a functioning member of an ensemble. This is white-hot musical invention -- it meanders, swoops, soars, digs in its heels, and above all offers a staggering kind of communication between four players who took nothing for granted and knew that everything was up for grabs. Even at this early stage of Lacy and company's investigation of free and improvised music, there is a healthy melodicism, rich counterpoint exchanges between Lacy and Rava, and a wildly expansive rhythmic palette employed by Dyani and Moholo. This is not normally considered an essential part of Lacy's very large catalog, but in the 21st century it does deserve to be heartily and critically reexamined. The cover painting by the late artist Bob Thompson makes the set worth owning simply for its beauty.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
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