Steve Lacy’s long recording career has been one of uncommon consistency of thoughtful, risk taking jazz. Steve Lacy Three: N.Y. Capers & Quirks
is a trio recording adding to this great soprano saxophonist’s body of work an excellent often “free jazz” performance recorded live in 1979.
Still in his early twenties, Lacy was recognized as a featured soloist on a classic recording of the Gil Evans Orchestra in 1957 ( Gil Evans & Ten ). Over the years, Lacy has been celebrated as one of the outstanding Monk interpreters on the basis of a series of brilliant group, duet, and solo recordings focusing on Monk compositions. Since the early 1980’s, his various recordings with pianist Mal Waldron have provided the jazz world with a striking example of the subtlety and the depth of thought and emotion that jazz improvisation can reveal.
N.Y.Capers & Quirks finds Lacy with Ronnie Boykins on bass and Dennis Charles on drums performing a long set of five of his own compositions. This is a trio that can expand and contract from the seemingly wide open spaces of simultaneous improvisation down to tight backup counter statements that often seem to unbalance Lacy’s lyricism. At times the roles reverse and then reverse again with each musician playing a shifting part. This interesting asymmetrical interplay is what keeps this recording a listening challenge. Throughout, Charles and Boykins sustain a complex dialogue with Lacy and with each other that is at times spare and at times strident, but rarely predictable. There are many ways of improvisational intensity and Lacy’s trio seems to have been determined to explore many of the possibilities. This is a very interesting recording by a very curious and lively trio.