Friday, April 14, 2006
Steve Lacy - The Forest And The Zoo
The Forest and the Zoo
STEVE LACY; soprano sax
ENRICO RAVA; trumpet
JOHNNY DYANI; bass
LOUIS MOHOLO; drums
More free soprano sax goodness today courtesy of Steve Lacy. Steve, as we all know, came to prominence as a free player in the early groups of Cecil Taylor, and here he performs two lengthy improvisations live in Argentina with an Italian trumpeter and South African rhythm section. As a live ESP recording, the sound is pretty muddy as you would expect, but Lacy's inventiveness shines through. Also apparent is the sheer verve of Rava, a young trumpeter at the time of this recording both making his mark and learning from a considerably more experienced mentor. Moholo is also exciting; he gets plenty of solo space where he comes across as an ingenious improviser, but he's also very able when it comes to keeping time (a loose concept on a free jazz recording like this one, so in many respects all the more difficult to achieve).
'Forest' features dense thickets of exploration interspersed by clearings of ensemble interplay. Generally speaking, Lacy sounds restrained throughout while it is Rava who plays with fire. Lacy's restraint as it's benefits as seen in the remarkable section of interplay between himself and Moholo midway through 'Zoo'. Lacy's soprano sound is generally quite smooth, but during this section his tone becomes clipped in the extreme and he plays in tiny bursts to create a sound reminiscent of a heavily damped guitar string and a million miles away from the predominant Coltrane-lite sound of other sopranoists that have come since.
As a recording of an important figure getting further out than before, as a document of a band that was short-lived but remarkable, and as a debut by a future force in trumpeting, this is a highly important record. Critics have suggested that it's more important historically than musically, and certainly there is little that's new here. But it's executed well, and like the best free jazz is challenging, thought provoking music. Well worth tracking down (try ESP-disk first).