Frank Lacy and The Smalls Legacy Band – Live at Smalls – Smalls SL-0038, 72:23 (Distr. by Harmonia mundi) ***:
(Frank Lacy – trombone; Josh Evans – trumpet; Stacy Dillard – tenor sax; Theo Hill – piano; Rashaan Carter – bass; Kush Abadey – drums)
Frank Lacy is a jazz artist that defies categorization, much like Charles Mingus. He rides the wave between free jazz and hard swinging but more mainstream fare. Known also as Ku-umba Lacy, Frank is like a caged tiger, roaming the stage when he is playing with the Mingus Big Band, both inspiring and leading the band in their hard-charging numbers, as intense as they come. He has played with Henry Threadgill and Julius Hemphill as well as Bobby Watson, so you know that Lacy can cover all bases.
For his live session at Smalls Oct. 16-17, 2012, Lacy’s band covers two of his own compositions as well as tunes from George Cables, Freddie Hubbard, and Charles Fambrough. As the elder statesman here, Lacy is content to sit back at times and let others take lead.
The live session gets off to a hard-charging start with “Stranded.” Theo Hill has an outstanding solo, Lacy blows hard and Kush Abadey simmers down the pace with a tasty drum solo. “Think on Me” from George Cables (whose tunes are showing up everywhere lately – nice..) follows and the ensemble work of the Smalls Legacy Band is superb. Frank’s solo mid-track shines as does Stacy Dillard.
“Alicia” locks into a groove aided by Josh Evans and Theo Hill. Lacy’s two originals are next. “The Spirit Monitor” has a melody that stays with you as the horns blow mellowly in an anthem theme while Kush occasionally drops bombs on the drums. Mid track Lacy opens up and Dillard helps keep the gospel feeling going. I dug this track…
I assume it’s Lacy vocalizing on his “Carolyn’s Dance.” She is certainly a special person to Frank. (Wish we had some liner notes for some history..) “Sunbath” provides a hard bop vehicle for the band to show their gentle side while still leaving room for Dillard and Lacy to open up while the rhythm section keeps the groove on.
Closing with Freddie Hubbard’s “The Intrepid Fox” Theo Hill sets the theme before the horns step up. Hubbard would have dug their arrangement as it possesses some real firepower.
In the intimate confines of Smalls, the energy on October 16-17, 2012 would have lit up the grid in Greenwich Village. Lacy and company can bring it big time…
TrackList: Stranded, Think on Me, Alicia, The Spirit Monitor, Carolyn’s Dance, Sunbath, The Intrepid Fox