Hanalei Bay, Lew Soloff, 1986
IC: (partway through) Lester Bowie? (at the end) Is it a white player? Is it Lew Soloff?
TC: Yes. But what made you ask that?
IC: Because I couldn't think of a black player who was a modernist who had that kind of vibrato on certain notes, and also growled like that. I had Lew Soloff in the back of my mind, because of the purity of the high notes he hit. When I said Lester Bowie, he hadn't really hit any high notes, and if I'd heard those high notes I'd never have said Lester Bowie, but I first thought, from the growls and the vibrato, which is an kind of thing, that it was Bowie putting it on, but it wasn't. It was Lew Soloff, not putting it on but being himself. And of course, he's an incredibly good player. He's one of these guys, who, like wine, matures with age. Some of his really great work has been done quite recently with Carla Bley; his actual sound on 'Big Band Theory' is really beautiful. It's the best sound he's ever had, a beautiful fat lyrical sound, and fantastic chops and stamina, and great phrases: he's really coming into his own.
TC : With Lew Soloff and Gary Valenti really battling it out!
IC: It's chalk and cheese: Valenti is more a jive eccentric than a jive virtuoso, but Soloff is a virtuoso, a man who's getting more emotion into his playing in old age than he did when he was younger.
TC: What about his work with Gil Evans' band?
IC: He's terrific with Gil Evans' band, but I still think he's playing better now. He's always been brilliant technically, but he's coming into his own in these later stages, and maybe one of the reasons is the continuity of always working with Carla Bley and always being the main featured soloist. This is a great compliment from Carla; he's risen to the occasion, and he's playing really well because of that. These things are so subtle: why emotion starts coming out in a player can depend on all kinds of subtle psychological things that are going on with the people around him. I think Lew is suddenly coming out as a big emotional player as well as a great technical player.