In the admittedly narrow annals of solo saxophone music Steve Lacy has managed to set standards of prolificacy unmatched by any of his illustrious peers. Even Evan Parker, who is regaled far and wide as the master of the idiom has failed to even come close to Lacy’s numbers when it comes to recordings. Here then is another set of solo improvisations and compositions by the reigning maestro of the straight horn. Is it essential? That would be dependant upon whom you ask. Is it an enjoyable and historically important addition to Lacy’s already overflowing discography? The answer after listening has to be an emphatic yes.
Recorded on Lacy’s 1976 North American tour, this date surprisingly marked his first solo concert in the United States. After playing dates in Canada (several of which are documented on the recent Emanem release Hooky ) Lacy touched down in New York and played a gig at a local loft, the results of which are presented here for the first time. The material for the concert is a mix of Lacy’s standard fare including the multi-sectional ‘Tao Suite,’ much of which is available in other guises. The versions are for the most part well recorded with very little static or interference. The clarity is due in no small part to the diligence of the engineer and the polite attentiveness of the crowd, though there are moments, as on the opening, humorously-rendered “Hooky,” which finds Lacy repeating the phrase “Don’t go to school,” where ambient sounds creep in. Several of the pieces, such as the opening of sections of the four-part “Four Edges,” end up sound more like exercises that cogent, completed statements thanks to their relatively simple melodic structures and incessant repetition. But Lacy takes everything in stride, cycling through his material methodically, engaging his audience in brief banter, and always remaining intimate with his horn.
Lacy’s technique has never centered on blatant virtuosity though his mastery of the intricacies and nuances of his instrument remains well documented and always at his disposal. This concert is no different and while the moments of overt jaw-dropping ingenuity are relatively few there is still a broad palette of tonal textures and variations for the attentive listener to recline their ears on and relish.
Tracks:Disc One: Hooky/ The New York Duck/ The Four Edges: outline (air); underline (fire); coastline (water); deadline (earth)/ Snips. Disc Two: Pearl Street/ Tao: existence; the way; bone; name; the breath; life on its way/ Revolutionary Suicide.
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