Steve Lacy playing solo makes a high and lonesome sound - nothing like Bill Monroe, of course, but more like the feeling of wind and snow on the face. It's cool, clear music, pure and high and possessing a deep delight at its core that sometimes remains hidden - only to surprise and enchant the listener when it reappears.
Hooky is a recording of a 1976 concert in Montreal. Four of the tracks were released on a 1979 LP, but Martin Davidson's outstanding Emanem label has at last given us the whole show, minus one false start and some applause.
While in general Lacy's style has gradually moved away from noise effects and toward a mature and hard-won beauty, this relatively early solo recording is somewhat anomalous in its sustained lyricism. "The New Duck," of course, playfully explores all the astounding sounds that Lacy can get out of a soprano saxophone, but even it has a logic here that's worth following. Meanwhile, the exquisite "Crops" is an unfolding lyrical exploration that's simply magical in its depth, warmth, and melodic charm.
An interesting comparison to this disc is the hatART recording Lacy made some fifteen years later, Remains. That solo disc contains the Tao cycle that gets an early treatment here, along with "Pearl Street," another stunning Lacy original here. This recording, as one might expect from a live performance, has slightly more brio, although it also captures much of the majesty and emotional power of Remains.
Steve Lacy has been creating music on an astonishingly high level for almost fifty years now, and he has never gotten his due. Hooky is just another example of why he should be numbered among America's all-time jazz greats. For this is music that, for all its superficial strangeness, is firmly within the jazz tradition: it is an exploration of improvised variations on set themes, played by a man who is so deeply prepared for the spark, the moment of creation, that virtually every moment is magical.
A masterpiece. Whatever you do, don't miss this one.