This is music that produces seemingly random associations as snippets of form and formlessness lead you to free, or perhaps not so freely, associate. Personal experiences dovetail with these compositions, which lead through nodes of memory and mood: from poet Robert Creeley to Alan Ginsburg to swing, world and free, through Bechet, Bird and Trane and then, of course, to the late soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. Poet Rosmarie Waldrop speaks of how we can examine by boring down or zooming out. Both techniques are operating here. Her short memorial to Creeley viewed his mind as now finding its way into form as "his body was out of the room, The Door, The Hat, The Chair, The Fact." Clarinetist Ben Goldberg's paean to his mentor Steve Lacy is all of these things.
Drawing upon his own considerable depth and breadth as composer and clarinetist, Goldberg combines with the equally expressive violinist Carla Kihlstedt and melds with tenor saxophonist Rob Sudduth against a West Coast rhythm section of bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Ches Smith. The quintet moves in and out from short to long. Lacy's "Facts" is ethereally elegiac as Kihlstedt's vocal blends with clarinet to then reappear on a second presentation that substitutes fiddle for voice. Extended tracks offer opportunities for each instrumentalist to expound on a theme: the pleading for one more "Long Last Moment," the violin/bass conversation that opens "I Before E Before I" before the catchy rhythm meets the infectious melody originally stated in the short opener, "Petals."
All ironically join together to present "Lone" until "Cortege" begins as a slow rhythmic funereal procession led by clarinet that is joined along the way by a cacophonous crowd fading away into silence. A final hidden track soothes with the restful warm tone of tenor and clarinet. Overall, an intensely personal listening experience.