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Steve Lacy Memorial Concert at New England Conservatory

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Lacy was an effective and highly-regarded teacher, as richly demonstrated by the students and alumni who performed...
On October 12, 2004, the New England Conservatory presented a concert in memory of soprano saxophonist and composer Steve Lacy, who joined the school's faculty on his return to the U.S. from Paris in 2002. Although his stay at NEC was sadly limited to two years, Lacy was an effective and highly-regarded teacher, as richly demonstrated by the students and alumni who performed the first half of the concert. They played mainly Lacy compositions in arrangements that sounded like his own. After Jazz Department head Ken Schaphorst opened with some thoughtful words of remembrance, the music began with a vigorous performance of Lacy's Art on voice, clarinet, and piano. Its text is a Herman Melville poem about impassioned striving to unite opposites in art. The sprightly instrumental Flakes followed, performed on trumpet, soprano sax, bass, and drums. Tina's Tune was elegiac but hopeful, setting a short poem, translated from the Japanese, about death in autumn, performed by three singers, soprano sax, and rhythm section.


Daniel Blake dazzlingly performed his own solo sax composition, increasingly complex variations on a Lacy-influenced theme. Jorrit Dijkstra and Matana Roberts performed Dijkstra's duo for alto saxophones, Lace, moving from unison melody through polyphony to furious arpeggiation that gave the effect of additional players. Other Lacy compositions included Longing, a song in Portuguese in an arrangement that included bass clarinet, and Resurrection, played by a solo baritone sax. Singer Monika Heidemann conveyed the humorously come-hither quality of Somebody Special. The first half closed with the two haunting songs on poems of Robert Creeley, Love Comes Quietly and Mind's Heart, in near-orchestral arrangements that included soprano and alto saxophones, trombone, guitar, and on the second song, harp. These two works were sung movingly by Irene Aebi, musical collaborator and wife of Steve Lacy.


The second half was performed by NEC faculty members, joined by Aebi and saxophonist David Liebman. On his composition Spacey for Lacy, drummer Bob Moses was joined by Ken Schaphorst on trumpet; David Liebman, Allan Chase, and George Garzone on soprano, alto and tenor sax respectively; Danilo Pérez on piano; and Rick McLaughlin on bass. After the others had improvised on his melody built on a motive reminiscent of Lacy, Moses took a well-developed solo that played intriguingly on the minor third in the drums against the major third of the melody. Then, Danilo Pérez performed his original untitled solo tribute, improvising with an Afro-Latin lilt. Ran Blake played Thelonious Monk's 'Round Midnight on a dark stage with the house lights dimmed, graciously yielding the spotlight to the memory of Lacy, who was profoundly influenced by Monk.


After speaking of his fondness and admiration for Lacy, David Liebman played Lacy's Prospectus on soprano sax. Accompanied by Daniel Tepfer on piano, Irene Aebi sang with great strength and intensity the Lacy song Le Jardin. Based on a French poem by Marina Tsvetaeva (Lacy's translation also appeared in the program notes), Le Jardin calls for a garden "for my old days". Monk's Misterioso in a Schaphorst arrangement, with Chase, Garzone, and Liebman all playing soprano sax and a rhythm section of Pérez, McLaughlin, and Moses, was the final work in this fitting tribute.

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