AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Guillaume Tarche, ed. – Steve Lacy (Unfinished) [Lenka Lente, 2021]

When soprano saxophonist/composer Steve Lacy died in 2004, the world of improvised music lost one of its most creative voices, and certainly a unique one. In anticipation of the twentieth anniversary of his death—and the ninetieth anniversary of his 1934 birth—Guillaume Tarche asked the simple question, “how do you listen to him?” to an international and broadly representative group of musicians and writers. The result is a trilingual (French, English, and Italian) collection of analytical essays from critics and musicologists, reminiscences and appreciations from people who knew him or heard him play, and anecdotes and accounts from those who played with him, not to mention discographies of Lacy’s releases as well as of releases featuring others’ interpretations of his compositions.

As the book’s many contributions demonstrate, Lacy’s art reflected his wide interests not only in jazz, Monk’s music most notably, but in modern composition, Beat poetry and haiku, some of which he set to music, and visual art. All of this manifested itself in his playing, whether in ensembles or solo: the sense of swing that traces back to his apprenticeship in traditional jazz, the particularly Modernist angularity of the shape of his phrases, the conciseness, and clarity of his themes. The title of Phillip Johnston’s analysis of Lacy’s 1978 composition Prospectus perhaps gives the best description of Lacy’s sui generis musical sensibility: “revolutionary conservatism.”

Choosing highlights from among the forty-five contributions in this thick book is difficult; everything here provides a worthwhile perspective on some aspect of Lacy’s work. Johnston’s highly detailed article is certainly noteworthy, as are the opening reflections by Irene Aebi, Lacy’s partner in life and in music; a long interview with Kent Carter, for many years Lacy’s double bassist; a recollection from harpist Suzanna Klintcharova, who played duets with Lacy; a loose-jointed dialogue between saxophonists Seymour Wright and Evan Parker; and an interview with Lacy by jazz journalist Bill Shoemaker. Saxophonist Gianni Mimmo, who was inspired to play only soprano after having heard Lacy in performance, provides sharp insight into Lacy’s use of harmonics and his conception of sound as something with an almost tactile solidity. In addition to Johnston’s piece, musical analyses include Frank Carlberg’s detailed breakdown of pitch organization in Lacy’s compositions, Jacques Ponzio’s consideration of Lacy in relation to Monk, and pieces on Lacy as a composer of art song by Vincent Lainé and Roberto Ottaviano.

But somehow the most perceptive observation of what it is that made Lacy’s music what it was comes from Alvin Curran with whose Musica Elettronica Viva project Lacy collaborated on and off for decades: “Steve Lacy never left the house without a book of poetry in his pocket.”
Daniel Barbiero

Releases Reviews

DMG Newsletter April 17th, 2009

From DMG:

Three new Tzadik releases! Sex Mob Meets Medeski! Taylor Ho Bynum Positive Catastrophe! Michael Bates live! SIM Trio Otomo! Steve Lacy Quintet! Peter Kowald Solo! Max Roach/Odean Pope Qt!

Miriodor! Led Bib! Yoshida & Nakamura! Schnee: Kurzmann & Stangl! No Neck Blues Band! Philip Glass! Foday Musa Suso

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Tom Varner Tonight in Seattle

From Wayward Music:

8:00 PM; $5 – $15 sliding scale donation at the door.

Seattle composer and jazz French Horn virtuoso Tom Varner performs with some of Seattle’s top players: drummer Byron Vannoy, whose new CD Meridian recently won “Best NW Release” in Earshot’s Golden Ear Awards; bassist Phil Sparks, who was just voted into the “NW Hall of Fame” in the same award ceremony; saxophonist Eric Barber; and clarinetist Jesse Canterbury. The quintet performs new works recently composed at the Centrum Foundation, among them A Waltz for Steve Lacy, In Heaven, and The Silent E in Hope, as well as some pared-down sections from Varner’s new piece for tentet, Heaven and Hell, to be released later in the year, and a few impromptu “music prayers/meditations” that work so well in the beautiful Chapel space.

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New Garrison Fewell And Ayn Inserto CDs Out

Improvised Communications discusses the two latest releases from Boston’s Creative Nation Music, guitarist/composer Garrison Fewell’s Variable Density Sound Orchestra (CNM 014) and The Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra’s Muse (CNM 015).

Fewell’s second release for the label, following 2008’s The Lady of Khartoum (CNM 010), Variable Density Sound Orchestra is the self-titled debut of his newest working ensemble. The group features Eric Hofbauer (guitars and percussion), Roy Campbell (trumpet, flugelhorn, flute and percussion), Achille Succi (bass clarinet and alto saxophone), John Voight (bass), Miki Matsuki (drums) and Alex Fewell (percussion).

Muse, the follow-up to The Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra’s self-released 2006 debut, Clairvoyance, is built around the theme of celebrating those who inspired her. It features arrangements of three pieces by special guest George Garzone and original compositions honoring Bob Brookmeyer, Frank Foster and Steve Lacy among others.

Both releases are part of the label’s ongoing fifth anniversary celebration in 2009, which also includes a package tour of New England and the forthcoming launch of a new series of rare, never-before-released and reissued music called The Hub Collection.

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Jazz Listings in the New York Times

From the Times.

ELLERY ESKELIN TRIO (Sunday) Ellery Eskelin is a tenor saxophonist drawn to rhythmic tumult and tonal friction, though he also has his soulful side. He has a long rapport with Jim Black, who plays drums here; the organist Jamie Saft fills in the middle space, doubling as an adhesive agent and a counterfoil. At 10 p.m., the Stone, Avenue C and Second Street, East Village,; cover, $10. (Chinen)

FREESTYLE MUSIC SERIES (Wednesday) This admirably low-fi series is back from hiatus, having found a new space for its scrabbling inventions. Dee Pop, the series organizer, plays drums in Radio I-Ching at 9 p.m. Also on board are the bluegrass duo Uncle Monk, with Tommy Ramone and Claudia Tienan (at 8 p.m.); Gods & Monsters, a project of the guitarist Gary Lucas (at 10); and the Love Dogs, a Middle Eastern-tinged group led by the multi-instrumentalist Tom Chess (at 11). At Cake Shop, 152 Ludlow Street, Lower East Side, (212) 253-0036,; $7. (Chinen)

IDEAL BREAD (Sunday) The music of the soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, who died in 2004, provides a prism through which this group views postwar jazz innovation; a strong idea, both practically and conceptually. Along with the baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton, the lineup includes Kirk Knuffke on trumpet, Reuben Radding on bass and Tomas Fujiwara on drums. At 9 p.m., Alphabeta, 70 Greenpoint Avenue, near Franklin Street, Brooklyn, (718) 383-4444,; $5. (Chinen)

JON IRABAGON (Monday) Mr. Irabagon, an energetic young alto saxophonist, has had a big year: last month, in addition to appearing on “This Is Our Moosic” (Hot Cup), the latest salvo by Mostly Other People Do the Killing, he took first place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. For this concert, partly organized by the Thelonious Monk Institute, he draws from “Outright!” (Innova), his strong debut as a leader, released in May. At 7 p.m., TriBeCa Performing Arts Center, Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers Street, (212) 220-1460,; $25; $15 for students. (Chinen)

MALABY-SANCHEZ-RAINEY TRIO (Friday) A collective trio that treads a middle ground between lyricism and abstraction, with Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone, Angelica Sanchez on piano and Tom Rainey on drums. At 10 p.m., the Stone, Avenue C and Second Street, East Village,; cover, $10.

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