A FLOWER IS A LOVESOME THING
Mal Waldron + Steve Lacy
Soul Note : 1987 [ buy ]
MW, piano; SL, soprano sax.
At the time these tunes were recorded, in 1986, Waldron and Lacy had been performing together on and off for close to thirty years. Their trust in each other is immediately apparent, as is their musical simpatico. Tackling a program of Ellington and Strayhorn selections—some well known, most less so—they produced one of the most beautiful jazz statements of the 1980s, in many ways an otherwise beauty-starved decade.
If the material is not particularly “out,” the combined Waldron/Lacy pedigree is itself enough to assure this record a place at D:O. It’s also worth rehashing the notion that straight beauty is a part of the continuum we’re trying to trace here, or can be. As opposed to a crooked kind of beauty. We love beauty, we are not afraid of beauty, and in many cases beauty kicks our ass. Cultural commando Dave Hickey knows this better’n most:
The vernacular of beauty, in its democratic appeal, remains a potent instrument for change in our civilization. Mapplethorpe uses it, as does Warhol, as does Ruscha, to engage individuals within and without the cultural ghetto in arguments about what is good and what is beautiful. And they do so without the benefit of clergy, out in the street, out in the margins.
Strayhorn is an easy add to that roster.
These songs do not encourage a lot of excess description; they represent themselves well without the benefit of liturgy. But we’ll note the utter confidence and control of both gentlemen in “Star-Crossed Lovers.” The latent swing, the spacious and relaxed gaps—can it possibly be as easy as they make it seem? The companionability of the title track, somehow suggestive in its minimalism of what a big band version would sound like. Lacy’s tone, like Waldron’s touch, bone dry. The searching “Flower,” in which Lacy and Waldron take a slightly roundabout way home.
And speaking of flowers, here’s Patti Smith on Robert Mapplethorpe:
He found it as easy to hurl beauty as anything else.
We hurl these beauties your way, from the margins, in the spirit of more and more amore. And remember: