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Steve Lacy Two, Five and Six: Blinks

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For the past three decades, Steve Lacy has predominantly performed in three settings: his late, great quintet/sextet; duets, primarily with pianists; and solo concerts. These four albums not only provide a solid cross-section of the soprano saxophonist’s accomplishments in these areas, but also shed some light on how Lacy is constantly reshaping his own compositions, and those of Thelonious Monk.

1997 marks the 40th anniversary of Lacy’s first recording of a Monk composition-the then seldom-heard “Work,” which Lacy included on his Prestige debut, Soprano Sax. Lacy’s distillations of Monk can be elegant (“Ruby My Dear” with Misha Mengelberg, one of five pianists featured on Five Facings); muscular (“Who Knows,” which opens the set with Waldron and closes the Monk set on the Silkheart solo disc), or abstract (the solo “Evidence;” the version with Mengelberg has an inviting, loose-limbed swing). Regardless which of Monk’s many moods Lacy chooses to tap, the common denominators of Lacy’s interpretations are his fealty to the thematic material, his attentiveness to Monk’s use of well-spaced phrasing and silence, and the harmonic implications of Monk’s subtle polyphonic structures (as on the solo disc’s “Shuffle Boil”).

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