The quartet Ideal Bread toys with listeners’ expectations even on paper, paying tribute to Steve Lacy without employing a soprano saxophone, his instrument of choice. Leader Josh Sinton goes in the opposite direction, using the baritone sax to revitalize Lacy’s compositions. Together with cornetist Kirk Knuffke on the frontline, drummer Tomas Fujiwara and new bassist Adam Hopkins, he again takes an extensive yet overlooked songbook and keeps it vital.
For the group’s third album, Sinton immersed himself in five Lacy albums dating from 1971 to 1977, which have been reissued together as Scratching the Seventies/Dreams. The set includes a few of Lacy’s earliest compositions, including some that he returned to and expanded in later years. Many were still fairly embryonic, so a current retelling requires that the members of Ideal Bread draw from their own musical personalities to flesh them out. The two-disc Beating the Teens contains a total of 30 tracks, many of them less than five minutes long. Some sound like spontaneous improvisations, and at least one holds silence in balance with sound. Several tracks even fade out in the middle of solos, without much rhyme or reason. While the overall picture might come off as fragmented, that seems to be the idea.
Among the other artists besides Lacy that inspired this project, Sinton has mentioned Iggy Pop, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Morphine and musique concrete. While that list might appear willfully eclectic, it also makes sense. The stop-start bassline underneath the squealing horns in “The Oil” could come from Pop’s work with the Stooges. The playful “Roba” recalls Lester Bowie’s mischief in the Art Ensemble, especially when Sinton removes his mouthpiece from the horn for a blow and members bark out the title at random intervals. In all, these two discs find Ideal Bread in excellent form and invite a further examination of the source material.