Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy, At the Bimhuis 1982

Charles Farrell

By Charles Farrell

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

One of jazz's enduring partnerships, soprano saxophone virtuoso Steve Lacy and piano minimalist Mal Waldron spent almost forty years engaging in and developing their alternately cranky, lyrical, intense, and funny dialogue. At the Bimhuis 1982 finds the duo focused and finely honed on a mostly Thelonious Monk program. Each piece is lengthy, allowing for full improvisatory exposition.

One of jazz’s most enduring partnerships pays tribute to Monk.

The album starts with an incredibly intense Waldron composition, “Snakeout.” Waldron and Lacy virtually hammer their way through the difficult theme and take off from there, the piano playing insistent repetitive figures as the sax moves between incisive declamations and perfectly controlled harmonics. Then the duo plays a beautiful rendition of Monk's “Reflections”; not one drop of sentimentality finds its way into the performance. Neither do these masters allow any melodrama to seep into Monk's “Round Midnight,” giving the tune the stately reading intended by the composer.

They finish the album with a tough-as-nails “Epistrophy.” Waldron isn't afraid to stick with a rhythmically emphatic banging of the chords, allowing Lacy to range as freely as he likes. They know this music backwards and forwards. They can both get to its heart instantly and veer off as far as they choose, always able to snap things back to the center.