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Steve Lacy with Irene Aebi at Diverse Works in Houston

Frank Rubolino By

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Steve Lacy with Irene Aebi
Diverse Works
Houston, TX
October 19, 1999

Houston promoter, curator, trombonist, and staunch supporter of the arts David Dove spearheaded a stellar concert in Houston this Fall that rewarded the enthusiastic audience with a delightfully creative set. Steve Lacy with Irene Aebi performed on October 19, 1999, at Diverse Works, a contemporary art center specializing in visual art, modern dance, theater, and music.

Steve Lacy, the master of the soprano saxophone, mesmerized the crowd in his inimitable snake charmer way by doing extended improvisations on ten Duke Ellington tunes. Lacy played both high profile Ellington pieces and more obscure selections, and his magic was in full force throughout the program. Ellington's brilliantly conceived compositions were a natural for the onrushing flow of ideas and original way of phrasing that mark Lacy's playing. He not only used his unique blowing technique but also resorted to guttural grunts and very offbeat overblowing to enhance his expressiveness. At one point, he blew through the opposite end of the horn to create foghorn-sounding tones.

For the second half of the program, Irene Aebi joined him and recited/sang the poems of six beat poets while Lacy continued his improvised wanderings. All poems were performed in English. Aebi's brusque, forceful style of singing collided with the smooth approach employed by Lacy in a study on contrasting tones. Lacy and Aebi have been working together since the 1960s, and their lengthy tenure was reflected in their professionalism and mutual respect. The years had been kind to Lacy's chops. He still had that elusive and wonderful mystique that has set him apart for his entire career.

Earlier in the week Lacy hosted a demanding workshop for the students at MECA (Multicultural Education & Counseling Through the Arts), a community center primarily for inner-city "at risk" students dedicated to education and enhancement of awareness of the arts. He painstakingly taught them the pitch, syncopation, and correct form of his composition "The Crust." Other artists who have worked with the MECA improvising students include Joe McPhee, Arthur Doyle, Wadada Leo Smith, William Parker, Pauline Oliveros, Assif Tsahar, and Wilber Morris.

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