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Artist Profiles

Steve Lacy: 1934-2004

By Published: July 24, 2004
I was lucky to meet Steve when I was young (20 years old), and I must say he changed my life. I was not sure which direction to give my musical life and, besides my love for this music, I was not ready to face the jazz scene. He was generous enough to welcome me into his "world" and to give me the opportunity to grow in his music. Playing with Steve then was a beautiful experience. His unique sound on the soprano, his music with the sextet was so different, so exciting, so meaningful and happy. It was like jumping into a new world for me, and since then I always had the same feeling. He never told me what to do, and gave me total freedom. "Keep the music alive", he used to say, was the only rule. His music was feeding me, each tune's bass line had something interesting I could work on and each gig we played was a musical adventure. He was always surprising and made everyone play better just trying to keep up with him. His sense of humour was great, too. Often when he was happy with the music, he used to make very funny sounds, like neighs, just for us on the bandstand. Steve's interest for different fields like literature, painting, dance and his open-mindedness made his company always fascinating. To me, Steve's music is like my home, I grew up with it and I will play it as long as I live.

I am very happy and proud to be associated with the beautiful "world" Steve has created, the work of a great master, a great human being who touched so many people on this planet.

Bye-ya Steve, I will miss your kindness, your smile and your beautiful sound, but I will keep the music alive.


Although it was a great sadness to learn of Steve Lacy's passing, it was not unexpected, and his music will always be a great source of joy. On June 9th, 1977, Steve and I were invited to play back to back solo concerts in Basel, Switzerland, by Werner Uehlinger (producer of hatHUT Records). I remember Steve saying to me, how important (for very personal reasons) it was to be invited to Basel; he wouldn't just go there for a gig. To share the bill was a great honor for me, and since I was on first, I thought if I could just keep my nose above the waterline, all would be OK. Then as Steve was about to begin his performance, he invited me to play a duet to close out the evening. I had just made a kind of blowout, way over the top multi-instrument performance, and there was Steve ever the gentleman, with just his soprano. I kept thinking, what instrument should I choose...certainly not the soprano...certainly not the tenor... certainly not the trumpet!

Finally I settled on the soprano, and then came time to play. As the first notes emerged, I thought to myself, "Are you crazy? Do you know who you are playing with?!" After almost 20 minutes it was over, and I thought I had escaped a bullet. I had received a cassette tape of the performance which I picked up, turned over and looked at many times, but was too embarassed to listen to for fear I had really got in over my head. Now 27 years later almost to the day, and I got up the courage to listen to the duet which came at the end of what became Hat Hut F:CLINKERS. The music is amazing! What I heard is a real dialogue, and a look into the heart of one of the kindest, most generous people it has ever been my pleasure to meet. This duet has never been heard publicly, but if this CLINKER is ever reissued, I certainly hope this episode will be included. Thanks Steve!


I will always remember Steve. When I moved to Paris in 1972 he was one of the first musicians to help me feel comfortable in France. He gave me leads for gigs and answered any questions we had. Steve was a great musician and a wonderful human being


I started working with Steve doing some things in New York and a stay in Europe from about '63 to '68. In 1970, we joined up again in Paris where he was putting a new group together, a group that I was in until 1983-'84. I must say, I learned a hell of a lot in those years.

He was a cultivated person. His awareness in art and literature was wonderfully stimulating. I loved going to concerts and galleries with him. And he had a sophisticated sense of humor. He taught all of us about dedication to one instrument = the evolution of the soprano sax. His sound became art itself.

I can say he was my musical guru in a way, and we learned much from each other. He did a great deal of work in his life and left us a lot . Thank you Steve Lacy.


Photo Credit
© 1996 Jack Vartoogian/Frontrowphotos

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