"The Ideal Bread" Point of Departure review by Bill Shoemaker

"The Ideal Bread" Point of Departure review by Bill Shoemaker, May 2008

Ideal Bread is the initiative of Josh Sinton, who first encountered Steve Lacy in 2002 as the baritone saxophonist was completing his Masters in Jazz Performance at New England Conservatory. Until then, Sinton had only a passing familiarity with such core-collection Lacy recordings like Evidence with Don Cherry. His ongoing exposure to Lacy at NEC – which included extensive rehearsals and occasional copyist duties – increasingly pulled Sinton into Realizing that unraveling this mystery would be a life long preoccupation, Sinton formed Ideal Bread upon arriving in New York in 2004; trumpeter Kirk Knuffke and bassist Reuben Radding were enlisted first, with drummer Tomas Fujiwara signing on later. Unlike most ensembles, whose scrambling for gigs and recording deals have created an almost rabidly frothing race to the bottom of a flooded market, Ideal Bread was true to Lacy’s practice of mulling, spending almost three years shedding and playing the very occasional gig before recording The Ideal Bread, released in a micro edition of 250 copies. It is a must-hear album for anyone who has a serious interest in Lacy's music and heard the promise of Lacy’s work with Charles Tyler on One Fell Swoop (1986; Silkheart). The baritone-trumpet front line transforms chestnuts like “Esteem;” whereas the theme necessitated Lacy to reach into his highest register to evoke a hallowed, even eerie ambiance, Sinton and Knuffke use their lower pitched voicings to more visceral ends. The instrumentation places a distinctly robust emphasis on the more overtly jazzy phrases on pieces like “Trickles” and “The Uh Uh Uh,” The ensembles are appropriately propelled by Radding, who leans towards the offsetting, space-soaking phrases and blunt attack of Kent Carter, and Fujiwara, who splits the difference between the bustling, yet unobtrusive style of John Betsch and the splashier, bomb-dropping approach of Oliver Johnson. Ideal Bread creates additional appreciable daylight between themselves and Lacy’s recordings through their judicious use of broad textures and occasional rubato forays in the improvisations. Overall, the quartet succeeds in the seemingly contrary goals in articulating what has been, to date, scantily interpreted repertoire: They establish bona fides by demonstrating how the various facets of a composer’s sensibility fit together; and they take notable risks in going off-road. The Ideal Bread lays down a serious marker for the posthumous evolution of Steve Lacy’s music.”