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Mal Waldron. Steve Lacy, . Reggie Workman, and Andrew Cyrille Photo by Hugo Peeters

Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy: The Mighty Warriors: Live in Antwerp 

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By Don Berryman – Photos by Hugo Peeters

Mal Waldron, photo by Hugo Peeters

Last year I reviewed the newly found recording from Mal Waldron Searching In Grenoble: The 1978 Solo Piano Concert [read my review here]. That is a brilliant solo piano performance recording. Now I am delighted to have another find by the “Jazz Detective” Zev Feldman this time featuring a stellar quartet with Mal Waldron and longtime musical comrades and fellow avant-garde jazz pioneers Steve Lacy, Reggie Workman, and Andrew Cyrille.  The Mighty Warriors: Live in Antwerp was recorded live in 1995 on the occasion of Mal Waldron’s 70th birthday. The entire ensemble plays its heart out with each member in top form.

Mal Waldron had been living in Europe for decades by the time of this recording and was well known there, much more than in the United States, where he seemed to have faded from cultural consciousness due to his absence from the local scene despite having a long and storied career in jazz in the US from the 50’s and 60’s. One that included being Billie Holiday’s accompanist and the house pianist/arranger for Prestige Records, and having recorded scores of albums with a who’s who of jazz including John Cotrane, Eric Dolphy, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, and Jackie McLean among others.

Mal Waldron’s style includes dense modal vamps and repeating motifs that invite reflection. Pianists Benoît Delbecq, Geri Allen, Craig Taborn, Ran Blake, Matthew Shipp, and Ethan Iverson have all acknowledged Waldron’s influence. In the notes Vijay Iyer says that Mal Waldron treats the piano like a drum: “It’s a very specific approach to piano that is not only about chord and melody, but also about the resonance, overtones, and the exploitation of the instrument in itself as an object.”

Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron, photo by Hugo Peeters

I think that Mal Waldron’s dark and brooding percussive style is complemented with Steve Lacy’s bright explorations on the soprano saxophone. As David Virelles says in the notes: “Mal and Steve were minimalists. They were completely intentional on what they said on their instruments. There’s no waste of information there.  Everything has a purpose, everything has a place and it’s carefully crafted. I think it was a beautiful match. I love the sound of Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron together.”

The Mighty Warriors: Live in Antwerp was sourced from the original concert tapes and released as a 180 gram vinyl limited edition 2-LP set for record store day (4/20/2024) with CD and digital releases following a week after. The release includes a booklet with reflections by producer Zev Feldman and jazz writer Adam Shatz, as well as the testimonies of the concert’s bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Andrew Cyrille as well as interviews with Jane Bunnett, David Virelles, David Liebman, Vijay Iyer, Evan Parker, and Mal Waldron’s widow, Hiromi Waldron, as well as never before seen photos from the concert taken by Hugo Peeters. Mastered for vinyl by Matthew Lutthans at The Mastering Lab, and pressed by Memphis Record Pressing.

Track listing:

Side A

  1. What It Is (Mal Waldron) 17:33
  2. Epistrophy (Thelonious Monk-Kenny Clarke) 5:58

Side B

  1. Longing (Steve Lacy) 12:30
  2. Monk’s Dream (Thelonious Monk) 12:33

Side C

  1. Variation Of III (Reggie Workman) 24:43

Side D

  1. Medley: Snake Out (Mal Waldron) / Variations On a Theme by Cecil Taylor (Mal Waldron) 24:03
Mal Waldron. Steve Lacy, . Reggie Workman, and Andrew Cyrille. Photo by Hugo Peeters
Mal Waldron. Steve Lacy, . Reggie Workman, and Andrew Cyrille. Photo by Hugo Peeters

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Don Berryman
Don Berryman contact info: 1240 S 2nd Street #405, Minneapolis, MN 55415