Practitioner by Ben Goldberg and Michael Coleman.

The story goes, Ben Goldberg asked and asked musician Steve Lacy to give him a lesson. Finally one day Lacy relented, and when the lesson was done, he gave Goldberg a copy of his album Hocus-Pocus.

Hocus-Pocus was an album of pieces that Lacy wrote to challenge himself, as a sort of book of Lacy-isms and solo etudes, but also which were tributes to artists who had influenced his work. People like pianist James P. Johnson, escape artist Harry Houdini, jazz musician Sonny Stitt, and high wire artist Karl Wallenda.

Goldberg, and his friend Michael Coleman, a clarinetist and keyboard/synth/electronics player, became somewhat obsessed with the album and have planned and schemed to put out their version of the pieces from Hocus-Pocus.

This album is the result of that obsession, and it is not at all what I expected.

Goldberg and Coleman have another band with drummer Hamir Atwal called Invisible Guy. On their last album, proper, Knuckle Sandwich, they even included a song called “Hocus-Pocus”.

But, Invisible Guy’s relatively straight forward approach to playing improvised music is completely different to what they choose to do on Practitioner.

Instead of concentrating on playing keyboards, Coleman collaborates with Goldberg and their recording engineer to process, multi-track, and otherwise mangle the sound of Goldberg’s clarinets playing Lacy’s work, (and he does play some of the king of all clarinets, the contra-alto clarinet, on this one,) and create a collage piece, not unlike what Miles Davis did with Bitches Brew. They use the recording studio as another instrument in their repetoire.

Lacy is here, Houdini is here, Wallenda is here, James P. Johnson is here. Goldberg and Coleman find them, and invoke them, often between the notes.

This is a fascinating, thought provoking, and very modern, piece of work from Goldberg and Coleman.

#BenGoldberg #MichaelColeman #Practitioner #SteveLacy #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

As a bonus, they made up a set of baseball cards with painted portraits of the artists in question and poems inspired by their work and personalities. A cool package, and a cool album, all around.

2017-09-26 Sands


Sands by Steve Lacy.

Solo Soprano by Mr Lacy on Tzadik.

This album has more of a feel as if someone turned on a recorder while they were practicing, than if they were intentionally recording a solo album.

A lot of the time he will find a phrase, play it once, then repeat it down a key, then another, then another, to the lowest he can play it on his horn. Or take the same phrase and repeat it several different times with different emphasis or different techniques. There’s are also a lot of pseudo classical themes that pop up and things that sound like circus music, along with some Jazzy improvisation.

Sands is technically interesting, as someone who plays an instrument, and is curious about other musician’s thought processes or how they practice. I feel like I am being given a look behind the curtain. But, I don’t find it compelling listening, as a Jazz listener.

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #SteveLacy #Sands

2017-09-13 Vespers


Vespers by the Steve Lacy Octet.

This is a great album. Everyone is at the top of their game. My favorite section is Ricky Ford’s Tenor solo on “If We Come Close”, I love how he moves easily between free playing and more traditional Jazz phrasing.

Listening to this, perhaps the most amazing thing is that the record got made at all. A large group recording of idiosyncratic jazz with sung-spoken texts based on the poems of a dissident Bulgarian Poet. Yeah, that’s going to sell a lot of copies.

Thank goodness someone at Soul Note had the foresight to green light this transcendental work.

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #SteveLacy #IreneAebi #JeanJacquesAvenel #JohnBetsch #BobbyFew #RickyFord #StevePotts #TomVarner #SteveLacyOctet #Vespers

2017-07-31 School Days

School Days by Steve Lacy, Roswell Rudd, Henry Grimes, and Denis Charles.

Thelonious Monk legendarily once berated someone accompanying him who was not working up to Monk’s standards by saying, “Play that thing or throw it away!” No one here could be accused of not playing. Grimes is especially numinous, with nimble runs up and down the length of his bass’ neck. Outstanding.

#SteveLacy #RoswellRudd #HenryGrimes #DenisCharles #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

2017-07-13 Jazz Advance

Jazz Advance by Cecil Taylor, Denis Charles, Steve Lacy, and Buell Neidlinger.

Continuing my investigation into Cecil Taylor’s early work, with his recorded debut from 1956. More interesting, than compelling, you can hear Taylor is still working out his concepts. And the rest of the band is trying to figure out, “If he’s playing THAT, what do we play?” The forms, at least in terms of time, are largely respected by Taylor, but the content of his solos often strays. Lacy is primarily playing Bebop runs over the changes. And the rhythm section is keeping time and walking the chords.

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #CecilTaylor #DenisCharles #SteveLacy #BuellNeidlinger

2017-07-12 Cell Walk for Celeste

Cell Walk for Celeste by Cecil Taylor with Buell Neidlinger, Denis Charles, and Archie Shepp.

A year after the “World of Cecil Taylor” sessions and the band is a lot tighter. Shepp has matured and is incorporating Taylor’s right hand melodic expressions and rhythmic motifs into his playing. Unfortunately, Taylor is saddled with a painfully out of tune piano and sits out much of this session. Two of the tracks are Bass/Sax duets. The piano issue is particularly egregious on the relatively straight forward covers of the Mercer/Ellington tune Jumpin’ Punkins with a larger band including Billy Higgins, Clark Terry, Roswell Rudd, Steve Lacy, and Charles Davis. Unless you’re curious what it would sound like to hear Taylor playing honky tonk piano, avoid those two tracks.

#CecilTaylor #BuellNeidlinger #DenisCharles #ArchieShepp #BillyHiggins #ClarkTerry #RoswellRudd #SteveLacy #CharlesDavis #CellWallkForCeleste