Steve LACY with Don CHERRY – Evidence 1961

Steve LACY with Don CHERRY – Evidence 1961
1990 Issue.


Steve Lacy continues to dissect the Thelonious Monk catalog, performing four more of his tunes (The Straight Horn of Steve Lacy had three Monk tunes and Reflections was entirely Monk). Joining Lacy are two members of Ornette Coleman’s quartet, drummer Billy Higgins and trumpeter Don Cherry, as well as bassist Carl Brown. Clearly inspired by Ornette’s shaping of jazz to come, this album has no piano/guitar and thus no discernible chord changes, making the relationship between the melodies and harmony ambiguous.

What’s interesting is that the Monk selections sound as melodic and logical as ever, even in this anti-harmony context. If it’s possible to be disappointed in a Monk composition, my choice would be “Let’s Cool One,” only because it’s a tad simple and lacks the large interval leaps and rhythmic challenges he’s known for. Still, Don Cherry saves it with some of his catchiest and bluesiest choruses. The other three Monks are all A pluses, even if they’re not the most well-known. “Evidence” especially, it probably has fewer notes than any other Monk tune but the choice of what notes to use and when they’re played is so incredibly on the money. When Don Cherry solos, Lacy can’t help but play some of the head underneath.

The other two tunes here are both Ellington compositions, and while “Something to Live For” is only average, “The Mystery Song” fully lives up to its name. Lacy’s soprano sax is phrased alongside Cherry’s trumpet and Higgins works his toms like magic. Starting the album off on such a dark, downbeat note is odd but it only works in the album’s favor. Aficionados of Monk and/or Ornette and/or soprano sax should check this out.
By Coolidge.
Really wonderful work from a pair we wish we could have heard more often together! Steve Lacy’s early records are all pretty darn great, but this album’s a really special gem – a rare pairing with trumpeter Don Cherry, and an album with an incredibly haunting sound! There’s almost a bit more warmth here than some of Lacy’s other early records – and more than Cherry’s too, for that matter – as the pair move together marvelously through space that might be dubbed modal, but which also has a somewhat airy and open sense of freedom. Lacy brings in some of his usual love of Thelonious Monk, but the rhythmic progressions often move away from standard Monk modes – partly from the absence of piano on the set. Drummer Billy Higgins is especially great – playing with an almost melodic approach to his kit at times – and the quartet’s completed by bassist Carl Brown, who’s really won our attention with his work on the date. Titles include an incredible reading of Duke Ellington’s “The Mystery Song” – plus the tracks “Something To Live For”, “Let’s Cool One”, “Who Knows”, “San Francisco Holiday”, and “Let’s Cool One”.
From Dusty Groove.
Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy continued his early exploration of Thelonious Monk’s compositions on this 1961 Prestige date, Evidence. Lacy worked extensively with Monk, absorbing the pianist’s intricate music and adding his individualist soprano saxophone mark to it. On this date, he employs the equally impressive Don Cherry on trumpet, who was playing with the Ornette Coleman quartet at the time, drummer Billy Higgins, who played with both Coleman and Monk, and bassist Carl Brown. Cherry proved capable of playing outside the jagged lines he formulated with Coleman, being just as complimentary and exciting in Monk’s arena with Lacy. Out of the six tracks, four are Monk’s compositions while the remaining are lesser known Ellington numbers: “The Mystery Song” and “Something to Live For” (co-written with Billy Strayhorn).
By Al Campbell. AMG.
Steve Lacy- Soprano Sax
Don Cherry- Trumpet
Carl Brown- Bass
Billy Higgins- Drums
01. The Mystery Song Ellington, Mills 5:45
02. Evidence Monk 4:59
03. Let’s Cool One Monk 6:43
04. San Francisco Holiday Monk 4:28
05. Something to Live For Ellington, Strayhorn 5:50
06. Who Knows? Monk 5:25

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