Few musicians bestrode the world of the avant-garde like the proverbial Colossus, but Steve Lacy did. He played with the heart of a giant and a soul in which a flame was lit in the '50s, when he began his career playing Dixieland music. By the time he made his presence felt in the avant-garde playing the straight horn, he was in the middle of a forest fire of his own making. So hot was the music he played both in the US as well as in Europe, which became his home for several years between the '60s and the '70s, that everyone around him was anointed by the same tongues of fire that he seemed to distribute like musical largesse to all those who believed in his particular gospel.
Principle among them was alto saxophonist Steve Potts, cellist/vocalist Irène Aebi, bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel, and drummers Oliver Johnson and John Betsch. Trombonist Roswell Rudd, spreading flames of his own, also crossed paths with Lacy on several occasions, but he was not on hand in 1983, when the Steve Lacy Five played this historic concert at the Rote Fabrik, Zürich, captured on Blinks... Zürich Live (1983).
Nevertheless, it was Lacy's regular, late-European quintet which had like wine of a rare vintage matured into the master's idiom, turning it and creating performance after performance of monumental work. It is almost impossible to single out any one musician in the group for his or her playing. So tight was the band that it formed one body: Lacy was always the head, with cerebral playing that sounded like a primordial howl in the wind; Potts and Aebi were the torso and arms that flailed as Lacy's music launched into its interminable dance once it began to unfurl; and Avenel and Johnson were the additional limbs and the dancing, swaggering and swinging legs that created the storm of polyrhythm, propelling the music into the stratosphere and an interminable dance.
And thus the greatness of Lacy's art was born. It burned with a lively blue flame and seared its pulses and rhythmic extravagances into memory. Unlike most music of the era, it seemed to trick all the forces of finiteness that threatened most of the avant-garde. Here, on this album, are some of the finest examples of Lacy's work. One-word titles. So brazen was the master here, that he elevated the music to a rarefied plane, where the musical stories were best experienced: the boisterous hilarity of "Stamps," with Avenel's brilliant double-stops and sly quotations from "But Not For Me" in Potts' blistering attack on "Blinks"; the wry humor and declarative slanting of "Prospectus"; and the mad dash of "Wickets," before the random genius of tone and texture on "Clichés."
In every chart, the band leaps with courage and joy into the unknown; the legacy of Lacy after his untimely death.
Stamps; Blinks; Prospectus; Wickets; Clichés.
Steve Lacy: soprano saxophone; Steve Potts: alto and soprano saxophones; Irène Aebi: cello, violin, voice; Jean-Jacques Avenel: double bass; Oliver Johnson: percussion.