It is a daunting prospect to approach the work of a musician who looms as large as Steve Lacy in avant-garde jazz. His prolific output alone is astonishing, with well over 100 recordings to his credit as a leader, all of which maintain a remarkably high level of musicianship, not to mention his seemingly countless sideman appearances, with jazz luminaries from Miles Davis to Gil Evans to Cecil Taylor.
In their 2018 avant-garde album Practitioner, Michael Coleman and Ben Goldberg on have taken as their subject one of Lacy’s least-known recordings, the long out-of-print Hocus-Pocus. It consists of a series of études, with Lacy showcasing his prodigious technique, and as far as that goes it is predictably impressive, with Lacy’s trademark leaps and angular flurries in ample abundance. And it opens a window into Lacy’s process as an improviser. Coleman and Goldberg work a certain magic with this repertoire that renders it more absorbing than the original, and yet completely consistent with Lacy’s intrepid, relentlessly creative spirit. Drawing richly from their own idiosyncratic sensibilities, the two don’t recreate the music so much as they refract, realign and reconstruct it, thus making something entirely new in the process.
Ben Goldberg - clarinet
Michael Coleman - keyboard