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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby




Mal Waldron - piano
Jean-Jacques Avenel - double bass
Steve Lacy - soprano saxophone

Recorded January 29 & 30, 2002. Studio La Buissonne, Pernes les Fontaines.




1. All Alone
2. Rites Of Initiation
3. You
4. Blues For JJ's Bass
5. The Seagulls Of Kristiansund
6. Waltz For Marianne
7. In The Land Of Clusters
8. Soul Eyes

If there were such a category as "Pure Jazz" then this disc would surely be a shining example of it. This is music stripped to the bones with no frills or attempt at commercial appeal and because of this there are some of the most beautiful and intense performances that it has been my privilege to hear for a long time. There is nothing forced or contrived about any of the pieces here and for the most part the mood is relaxed and at the same time cerebral. This is not to say that the music is too "clever", it is highly approachable and enjoyable at the same time as it reflects all of the above mentioned qualities.
Mal Waldron has played on a regular basis and arranged and produced pieces for such notables as Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Max Roach and Art Farmer. He was the accompanist to Billie Holiday for the last two and a half years of her life, but it is as a composer that he is probably most renowned. His tune "Soul Eyes " has become one of the most popular and recorded of modern Jazz ballads and there is an excellent rendition on this release. From the 1960's onwards Waldron has been resident in Europe where he has established a long term artistic relationship with the soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy who is to be heard on two of the pieces featured here.
Waldron has possibly missed out on universal recognition because of his decision to live and work abroad, but the standards and development of his music have certainly not suffered through lack of direct exposure and proximity to Stateside influences. His playing was originally described as Monk style be-bop piano and he has continued to build on the quirkiness of this genre until he has come up with a highly personal approach. He possesses great lyricism and seems to have an endless fount of melodic invention. His compositions are outstanding - he surely deserves much wider appreciation for this aspect of his work alone.
I am unfamiliar with Jean-Jacques Avenel on string bass but he is more than equal to the task of playing in such stellar company and manages to make telling and original contributions on the pieces he performs on, which is all except for two piano solos. There is great interplay between the bass and the piano and it is pleasant to here Avenel forgoing the traditional roles of tempo-keeper and harmonic framework for much of the time to participate on a more significant level.
It is easy to see why Steve Lacy has been a consistent poll winner on his chosen instrument over many years. He only plays on two numbers, "Soul Eyes" and the delightful waltz "You ", but it is obvious that one is listening to a master by the strength and beauty of his tone alone. He is one of a very few who have chosen to make this awkward instrument the mainstay of their career. He is one of even fewer to have had any degree of real success in terms of artistry and recognition.
This is an absolute must for the discerning listener, especially if attracted to top flight composition, improvisation and performance. It is time Mal Waldron became a household name amongst Jazz fans, to be mentioned in the same breath and on the same level as McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans.

Dick Stafford


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