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A Fireside Chat With Steve Lacy

By Published: June 5, 2004
SL: I get a lot of respect, but more important than that, Fred, I get a lot of response. I have a lot of music that was made in Europe and I brought it all back with me and the students eat it up. They love it and not only that, they perform it and then they come up with things I would have never have thought of. It is very gratifying for me to see what they do with this material. So that inspires me and I learn a lot from them and they from me and it is a very fruitful experience so far.

FJ: The partnership you have with your wife Irene is two fold, not only through marriage, but through music as well.

SL: She has been my principal inspiration in composition since the Sixties. We met in '66 in Rome. When we moved to New York in '67, that is when I started writing seriously for her voice. She had a wonderful voice. She was extremely musical and intelligent and I started to write songs for her, things based on Buckner. I had a desire to improve the level of the lyrics in jazz song. And with her collaboration, I was able to accomplish a whole body of work that we made together. Now, it is about two hundred and fifty vocal works in our library in about four or five languages. She has made about forty-five records realizing the songs that I wrote and so now that body of material is starting to spread to all the singers and all that. They are very interested in performing that themselves. That is the experience that I have with the students now. Her collaboration was precious to me. Also, she played cello and violin and now, she is playing piano a lot. She is a genius. She is the only one I know that can interpret these works that we did. We used authors for the words that we used, Herman Melville, all kinds of poets, Russian poets, and some of the New England poets and all beat poets. Our next record is called Beat Suites on Verve, where she sings ten settings of the beat poets, Burroughs, Ginsburg, all the famous ones with George Lewis on trombone and my normal rhythm section with Betsch and Avenel. That's on Verve coming out early next year. I think she is the only one that can sing these serious jazz art songs, so far.

FJ: Hell must have frozen over, finally, some major label respect with Monk's Dream (Verve) and this follow up.

SL: It is always a matter of individuals and that came about through an old friend of mine who was a producer there, Daniel Richard, who had faith in what we were doing and was an old friend of mine who understood what we were doing and was in a position to make a decision like that. Then the success of that record allowed us to do the Beat Suites. We will see how that does. I am looking forward to its release.

FJ: And a new project on the Senators label, 10 of Dukes + 6 Originals.

SL: Oh, you've seen that. That is Vincent Laine. He started the website for me quite a few years ago and he runs it. It is very well done and always up to date and it's got lots of information on it and lots of people hit on it. He also helped me put out my book and has been my musical assistant for many years now. He and some other friends here in New York and Tokyo and France formed a circle that we call the Senators and they have been interested in our music for quite a few years and it was sort of logical that they would produce a record. This is the first record they made and it is on the Senators label and it is from a live concert I did in Japan of this Ellington sequence that I have been doing for a few years. That started from a request from the San Francisco Jazz Festival during the Ellington centennial year. They asked me to do a solo concert at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco of Ellington, or dedicated to Ellington. I prepared for that about a year in advance. I made this sequence of ten Ellington pieces and did that in various places, in churches, museums and clubs in Italy and France. Then this was recorded in Japan live and that is the first record on Senators called 10 of Dukes. We will see how this does. So far, it is doing very well.

FJ: Avant-garde has so many misconceptions.

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