That’s Amore

Mapplethorpe flower


Mal Waldron + Steve Lacy
Sempre Amore
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:

Shoe = Beauty.

Category Mal Waldron, Steve Lacy

14 Responses to That’s Amore

  1. I had the pleasure of seeing/hearing these men perform in a very small club in Paris just before Mal Waldron died…they were GREAT!…no indication of illness or slowing down at all…and to be able to go up to them and personally thanks them was an honor…gentemen indeed…

  2. I’ve been quietly waiting in the wings hoping that there would eventually be some Steve Lacy posted. I was finally coming around to making a request, but it seems you have beaten me to it. With Mal Waldron along side I couldnt have asked for more. Im enjoying each and every post so keep up the good work! While Im here Ill throw out a couple names that I would enjoy hearing in the future should they come up: Charles Gayle, Wadada Leo Smith, Derek Bailey, Paul Bley, Joe McPhee, Jemeel Moondoc, and more specifically Grachan Moncur’s highly regarded and just as highly priced early Blue Note albums (Evolution and Some Other Stuff). Regardless Ill enjoy whatever comes along…

  3. Thanks for the comments, Steve and CSchenk. Steve, that sounds like an amazing gig. And C, thanks for the requests. We’ll definitely see what we can do on all counts. If you can’t wait for Moncur, I think those albums are available on a Mosaic mini-box, if it’s not sold out:

  4. Ah, man this is absolutely grogeous. I also highly recommend a Mal Waldron solo piano outing on Soul Note called Update, from I think 1986. He does two pieces inspired by/dedicated to Cecil Taylor on there as well as some standards.

    Steve Lacy with Roswell Rudd too, glorious. And the FMP Globe Unity Orchestra with Lacy’s composition Rumbling.

    thanks again for a great post,


  5. I got the Moncur Mosaic Select just a couple of days ago. Mine is numbered roughly 4800 of 5000. I don’t know if that means that you should hurry to buy one or wait until they sell out for BN to reissue the single albums.

  6. I had the opportunity to meet Steve Lacy while he was in Montreal for a seminar at McGill University… a few months before he died. I wrote an article for Jazz Magazine about his philosophy of music. I don’t know if it’s still available over their web site (anyway… it’s in french). A couple of hours after the end of the interview, Lacy did a two-hour speech about his personal journey in the jazz world. So fascinating… a lot of funny anecdotes like how he got stuck in Argentina during a few months because he didn’t have any money to buy a flight ticket. Now that I know that Lacy was already fighting against cancer, the memory of that night is illuminated with the serenity of a beautiful musical mind.

    p.s. Hey guys of Chemistry class : send me an e-mail if you come visit Montreal. We’ll have a good beer.

  7. Pedantically: the tune is “Star-Crossed Lovers” (i.e., Romeo & Juliet). And yeah, pony up for the Mosaic set while you can. Grachan is still with us and in the midst of a creative revival, so he could use your support.

  8. Hey, DJA. Thanks for stopping by. We’re totally down with pedants. And as former copyeditors, appreciate the correction. I was taking the title right off of the Soul Note disk card; it’s also printed that way on the disk itself. Always struck me as weird, but I figured, who am I to correct Strayhorn? When in reality, I am correcting the typists at Soul Note, and with that I have no problem. Thanks too for the shout-out this morning. When’re you coming back to Union Hall?

  9. Whenâ??re you coming back to Union Hall?

    I’ll let you know when I know. Next couple of hits, we’re back to our usual haunt, the Bowery Poetry Club.

    But speaking of Lacy music, NYC Destination Out readers should check out Josh Sinton’s new Lacy project, Ideal Bread, at Barbès tonight (8 PM). Also, Monika Heideman is there on Thursday and she usually sings some Lacy songs. More info on both in this post.

  10. Re: typists at Soul Note. The Waldron solo piano recording called Update lists a tune as “The Inch Work,” which is of course Inchworm.


  11. hi, just wanted to chime in my thanks for the Lacy posting and vote for my favorite Lacy/Waldron duo performance, which is “Esteem” off the album “Communique.” anyone heard that? check out Lacy’s amazing squeaky call-to-arms at the beginning.

    some stuff by the Sextet would be great to see up here. “The Door,” “The Gleam,” “Momentum”–these are intensely undervalued albums, as is “One Fell Swoop,” a quartet with Chas. Tyler on Silkheart. oh yeah, and how bout “Trickles” with Rudd on Soul Note! as Braxton said in “Forces in Motion”–and i’m paraphrasing here–Lacy was a virtuoso at putting out records. (anyone remember the exact quote i’m thinking of?)

    anyway, viva Lacy and your site rules.

  12. Thanks for the excellent suggestions, Hank, only a few of which I know well. And that’s a beautiful (paraphrased) quote from Braxton – har.

    Thanks too for the kind words, and right back at you. Your Steve Perry (and related) post is a wonderful thing.

  13. Just thought I would write a note to let you know that I will be using material from this site as a core segment of a home school course in music appreciation I will be teaching my 14 year old son beginning in January 07. The segment of the course based on material from destination-out will help him understand music from a perspective unique to the jazz world. It will also provide him with an opportunity, and motivation, to explore American history and culture in a very engaging environment. One of the course assignments will require him to write the co-proprietors of the Chemistry Class a thank-you note for the material and a short synopsis of what he learned during the Jazz segment of his course. I hope my note here, and the results of his endeavors will be an encouragement. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions or concerns about me using the site materials for this purpose. Thanks.

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