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Steve Lacy / Joëlle Léandre - One More Time

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Artist: Steve Lacy / Joëlle Léandre

Album: One More Time

Label: Leo

Review date: Aug. 14, 2005

Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy’s death last year at the age of 69 hurt more than most. He was one of the rare musicians left whose work encompassed the entire history of jazz; he started out playing Dixieland, joined the bands of Monk and Taylor, and mixed with European improvisers like Derek Bailey and MEV. With his hipster speech patterns, simultaneously antique and timeless, his warmth and wit and tenacious intelligence, he personified something passing. Whatever jazz will be in the future, it will be made by people whose link to its roots comes from historical study, never again by personal experience. That’s how it should be – humanity necessarily moves on – but there’s still tremendous loss when all the people who have lived something pass away.

But the occasion of this record was reconnection as well as departure. It was recorded during the whirlwind of concerts Lacy played in the summer of 2002, just before he left Paris, his home for three decades, for Boston. While Lacy and bassist/vocalist Léandre lived in the same town and were fine friends, they hadn’t played together for 15 years. The conservatory-trained Léandre moves in somewhat different circles than did Lacy; she’s never completely renounced classical music, nor really embraced jazz. But as this album proves, they were an inspired pair whose differences only fueled their creative dialogue.

From the start, both players assert their personalities forcefully, Léandre bowing bold melodies, Lacy stitching and twirling elaborate lines, each mindful of the other’s directions, but unwilling to water down their statements for the sake of mere agreement. Through out One More Time, the venue chips in with a third voice; glasses clatter, patrons chatter. Annotator Francesco Martinelli reads this as Cage-ian, and one needn’t argue the point, but one should also keep in mind how many great jazz performances throughout the decades have taken place before (and were recorded with) loudly yakking crowds.

Lacy and Léandre give them no quarter either, never smoothing or dulling their elaborate contrapuntal shapes to play to the groundlings, nor toning down their busts of absurdist humor. At one point Lacy snorts into his horn like a warthog while Léandre cages him with a pizzicato lattice. And for the encore, Lacy sings “One more time” over and over with exaggerated bathos, then uses the phrase’s tones as the springboard for one last dizzy improvisation. This pair won’t play again, but this CD will; if you have any affection for either musician’s work, you owe it to yourself to hear it.

By Bill Meyer

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