Even before one morning somewhere in mid 70's America woke up and decided that all that jazz is not what could be interesting any more (what initiated massive American jazzmen escape from there mostly to Europe),for many US artists European scenes(and atmosphere all around) often looked attractive.There are long list known musicians who spent part of their life in Europe, but probably two of most visible (if not influential) were pianist Mal Waldron and sax player Steve Lacy.
Them both started as hard-boppers, Waldron was Billie Holiday's regular accompanist from April 1957 until her death in July 1959.Steve Lacy after few early mainstream albums switched to his own kind of tuneful soprano sax soloing based avant-garde jazz,staying one of most prolific Monk legacy interpreter. Waldron moved to Paris in mid 60's,from 1967 stayed living in Munich for decades. Steve Lacy relocated to Paris in 1969 (so them both still caught these European arts capital golden age; staying there or around for more than four decades both evidenced Paris sinking to pitiable state what it is now as well though).
Both Waldron and Lacy after relocation to Europe released many albums, here and abroad - mostly in Japan and partially in States. Waldron collaborating with many European artists became one of most prolific post-bop pianist on continent,his once found still in early years piano playing manner didn't evolute a lot, but probably it became his fame main factor - his music stays easy recognizable. Similarly to Mal,Lacy released even more albums as leader, very often returning back to same dozen of tunes he played for decades. Still his each concert and each album is different, at least for those more familiar with his music.
During their European half of life both Waldron and Lacy ways crossed regularly, they have long history of collaborative works.Still "Journey Without End" recorded in Paris in 1971 and released in next year in Japan only is important as their first ever collaborative album as co-leaders. With excellent rhythm section (Kent Carter on bass and Noel McGhie on drums)quartet recorded five advanced compositions (two Waldron's on side A and three Lacy's on side B).
Many Waldron and Lacy music fans will agree that even if each of artists is great leader,their work as duo very often gives better result - clear straight and free Lacy's trumpet is perfectly earthed by Waldron moody,dark and dreamy and always more framed Waldron's piano. Starting from "Journey Without End", Wal-Steve duo will release thirteen more collaborative albums as co-leaders,but their few very first are very best as well.
By its atmosphere "Journey..." is more Lacy's album than Waldron's (two Lacy's compositions "I Feel A Draft" and "A Bone" are presented here for the first time and he will play them again and again for years ahead).Waldron piano with advanced rhythm section anchoring Lacy's free and flying sax soloings well, but still it's Lacy who pushes all the music ahead. His free improvs initiates Waldron's freer,sometimes funkier playing.Groovy rhythm section finishing that tasty mix to very accessible (for such kind of music) but advanced at the same time brew. It's interesting that side A (which contains Waldrons songs) sounds better than more abstract Lacy compositions on side B: Waldron's compositions are stronger here and shine brighter under Lacy more adventurous hand.
Same year duo will record (in Paris again) and release (this time on French America Records)their second collaborative album - just three originals even freer,more Lacy-influenced and equally great music.Their debut as duo isn't well known since it looks it has been never reissued and it's shame - it contains one of the best music recorded by them both.