Steve Lacy’s "Saxophone Special +" portrays extremely artistic collaborations with the gods of the British Free Jazz movement. This CD comprises re-releases of original LP’s on EMANEM recorded in 1973 and 1974. Saxophone Special + without a doubt is a historical archive pertaining to the evolution of free and largely improvised music. While there are a few audio related flaws i.e. Derek Bailey’s stereo amplification was recorded in mono due to apparent tape recorder malfunctions, and a few barely noticeable audio disparities, this CD succeeds in admirable fashion.
Jazz’ reigning master of the soprano sax, Steve Lacy is comfortable and equally adept at performing within just about any genre imaginable, i.e. mainstream, bop, free-jazz et al. Here Lacy is captured with long time associate Steve Potts (alto & soprano sax); along with: Derek Bailey (guitar); Kent Carter (bass) and the late John Stevens (drums). The first 3 tracks: 38, Flakes and Revolutionary Suicide were recorded “live” at London’s “100 Club” in 1973. Lacy is the prime soloist and carves out angular and quite lyrical thematic statements frequently utilizing his luscious vibrato techniques. Bailey at times is lost in the mix but conveys the frenetic undercurrents. The recorded sound is surprisingly good given the conditions at the time.
Tracks 4-9 were recorded in 1974 at the “Wigmore Hall” in London. The personnel here is: Steve Lacy (soprano); Steve Potts (soprano & alto saxophones); Trevor Watts (soprano & alto saxophones); Evan Parker (soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones); Derek Bailey (guitar) and Michel Waisvisz (synthesizer). Two interesting notes cited among Martin Davidson’s insightful liner notes: 1) The 6th track “Swishes” is the only published performance of Evan Parker playing baritone sax 2) Waisvisz along with Derek Bailey were summoned by Lacy to provide a “noise section” on these tracks. Waisvisz’ analog synth manipulations may sound somewhat dated compared to today’s digital patches and midi technology; however, the sound meshes surprisingly well and serves as a slight abstraction to the elements of the free improv taking place. Davidson has also positioned the “left-center-right” placement of the saxophonists specifically for tracks 4-8. These tracks are the highlights of the CD. On cuts such as “Staples and SOPS” we behold Lacy and co. delving into unknown territory, prodding and complimenting each other, exploiting themes, improvising and constructing conceptual subtleties that propel our imaginations into uncharted territory. The music comes across as highly charged and inventive. Perhaps, as Producer Martin Davidson suggests one the earliest if not the first exposition of a saxophone quartet performing improvised music. “Saxophone +” is historical yet remarkably palatable and a must for the free jazz compleatist.