On Sneak Preview, pianist Simon Nabotov demonstrates why his playing has proven so simpatico with Steve Lacy's: a penchant for juxtaposing disparate musical elements, for melodies that scramble across the changes, often using a tritone as a walking stick. These performances, recorded live, bring Nabotov, the composer, to the fore. The opening track is fittingly titled "For Steve," and moves from lyrical air to Monkish flair. The title track is dedicated to bassist Mark Helias, whose contributions throughout are characteristically adroit; the piece is an unusual suspect, a shuffle with the odd beat thrown in that carries with a taste of the intrigue with which Herbie Nichols infused his compositions. "Let's Go Baby" is a lop-sided samba that reels wonderfully around Tom Rainey's deft drumming.
The piece de resistance is "Happy Buchki Break Tune," a kaleidoscopic romp that opens as if setting a mood, then quickly picks up steam as Nabotov rolls into the first bit of happy, gospel-tinged material that can't help but recall Keith Jarrett. But that's only the beginning: the spirit of James P. Johnson makes a stunning appearance, in a midtempo stride that double times into a breakdown, returns and disintegrates again, taking more post-modern turns with each passing moment. The trio comes in again, bringing a dark intensity to Nabotov's lines, which are largely rendered in octaves, and the striding sunshine returns to carry us to closure.