Reviews that mention Steve Lacy

September 17, 2021

Steve Lacy (Unfinished)

Organized by Guillaume Tarche
Lenka Lente

By Ken Waxman

Strictly speaking American saxophonist Steve Lacy (1934-2004) is finished. That is if we’re speaking about leave taking of this temporal plane. However the influence of the musician who introduced the soprano saxophone to modern Jazz and improvised music is far from over. Significant as an innovator, performer, composer and mentor, Lacy’s career, much of which was spent in Paris, was richer, varied and more complex than simple biographies and discographies can convey. This 470-page volume provides a kaleidoscopic, if somewhat eccentric, compendium of the many strands of Lacy’s life from 43 contributors writing in English, French and Italian. MORE

March 23, 2021

George Lewis

Rainbow Family
Carrier 051

By Ken Waxman

Although 1984 may not seem that far back, the tracks on this CD capture some of the first concerts George Lewis organized in Paris following his work at IRCAM that matched his interactive computer music with live improvisers. Culled from three days of performances, the high quality of the results is probably because, while the software was novel, each participant was experienced in close listening and sound interaction. Recorded as human-and-computer duets and finally a collective improvisation, the participants are British guitarist Derek Bailey, French bassist Joëlle Léandre, long-time American-in-Paris soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy and Lewis’ AACM cohort Douglas Ewart playing bass clarinet, flute and bamboo flute. MORE

September 1, 2020

Franz Koglmann

Black Monk BMCD-02

Franz Koglmann


Black Monk BMCD-01

Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad/Kent Carte/John Stevens

Blue Cat

NoBusiness Records NBLP 130

Establishing absolute European improvised music free of American influences was as much of a mug’s game in the late 20th Century as Donald Trump’s xenophobic directives have been during the past four years. Those like Derek Bailey who maintained that stance – while still playing with any non-Europeans who came along – ended up looking foolish. Far more prescient were players like the one here who created a sound mosaic that didn’t bother with geographical origins. MORE

September 1, 2020

Franz Koglmann

Black Monk BMCD-01

Franz Koglmann


Black Monk BMCD-02

Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad/Kent Carte/John Stevens

Blue Cat

NoBusiness Records NBLP 130

Establishing absolute European improvised music free of American influences was as much of a mug’s game in the late 20th Century as Donald Trump’s xenophobic directives have been during the past four years. Those like Derek Bailey who maintained that stance – while still playing with any non-Europeans who came along – ended up looking foolish. Far more prescient were players like the one here who created a sound mosaic that didn’t bother with geographical origins. MORE

April 27, 2019

Bucket of Blood

By Steve Potts with Michel Edelin
Lenka Lente (in French)

Best known for his quarter century as the second reed voice in soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy’s bands, American saxophonist Steve Potts had notable musical experiences before and after his stint with Lacy. Episodic and somewhat poetic this slim volume puts into perspective the career of the Columbus, Ohio soprano and alto player who has made his career in France since 1970.

Written in numerous short chapters framed by the frequent gigs Potts played at the legendary Rue de Rosiers Jazz club 7 Lézards, the narrative is more lyrical than linear, strung together like tales players would tell on and off the bandstand. Likely helped by the poetic sensibility of collaborator Michel Edelin, who is a French scholar as well as a first-class Jazz flutist, Bucket of Blood ranges through Potts’ lifetime experience and decision to expatriate to a country where his music could be appreciated with less of the racism and hustling that was endemic in the American Jazz scene, Related on his father’s side to the classic Swing tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate, who influenced Potts to start playing reeds, his appreciation of traditional sounds has means that Potts is comfortable working in mainstream situations with the likes of prototypical R&B honker Hal Singer as well as probing exploratory sounds with Lacy and others. MORE

February 6, 2018

Steve Lacy

Free for a Minute (1965-72)
Emanem 5210

Spontaneous Music Ensemble (1968)

Karyobin are the imaginary birds said to live in paradise

Emanem 5046

Hans Reichel (1973)

Wichlinghauser Blues

Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 033

Roscoe Mitchell (1977)

Duets with Anthony Braxton

Delmark/Sackville SK 3016

Something In The Air: Historical Free Music Documents Reappear on CD

By Ken Waxman

Arguably the most important and least understood sound of the 20th Century, Free Music which combined jazz’s freedom with noted music’s rigour, while aiming for in-the-moment creation has now been around for almost six decades. With its advances now accepted as part of the ongoing sonic landscape, long out-of-print are being reissued and reappraised for their excellence. MORE

November 26, 2017

Convergences, Divergences & Affinities: Further Beyond Jazz, the Second Wave of English Free Improvisation, 1973-9

By Trevor Barre
Compass Publishing

Forced to exist in a musical universe that values popularity and money over other qualities, Free Music and one particular sub set, British Improvisation, has always inhabited a unique, almost heroic area. It’s unique because most of its major stylists are instantly identifiable once they start playing; it’s heroic because a raft of UK musicians continues to inhabit the field despite mass indifference. Like Theodore H. White writing in his multi-volume The Making of the President series on American politics, Trevor Barre brings the same attention to detail as well as examining overriding trends in order to perfectly situate the musical, societal and sociological circumstances that contributed to the birth and dissemination of this music. MORE

March 22, 2016

Microgroove: Forays into Other Music

John Corbett
Duke University Press

By Ken Waxman

Searching for the equivalent of a travel guide to the often uncharted territories of turn-of-the-century, so-called other music should lead to this volume. A collection of essays, interviews and reviews written between 1990 and 2014, Microgroove outlines the achievements of many of the progenitors and disseminators of non-mainstream music during that epoch. A Chicago-based music writer, concert promoter, art curator and record producer, John Corbett has been intimately involved with variants of what he describes as “music that demands a different mode of listening” for decades. Like an embedded anthropologist studying the culture of particular tribes Corbett is also able to place these sonic advances in a global context. MORE

January 6, 2016

On The Cover

Rova: Still Creative After All These Years
By Ken Waxman

Someone once described Rova as the Grateful Dead of Jazz. A comparison to the Rolling Stones would be more accurate. For more than 38 years, with only one change in personnel 27 years ago, the Bay area-based saxophone quartet has created high quality music. However unlike the venerable British rockers whose music hasn’t been cutting edge for decades, Rova continues to evolve and experiment.

Case in point: this month’s series of NYC concerts. From the 19th to the 24th, the band’s residency at The Stone offers a retrospective of classic Rova material as well as new works. Some sets will feature Rova and guest musicians, some of whom have never played with the band before. Before that, on January 17th at Le Poisson Rouge, an expanded Rove ensemble will perform Electric Ascension, a 21st Century re-imagining of John Coltrane’s classic work. Concurrently, RogueArt will release Channeling Coltrane, containing a live performance of Electric Ascension from the 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival on DVD and Blue-ray; a CD of the music itself; plus Cleaning the Mirror, a documentary that mixes the story of Rova’s Ascension adaptation with a history of the creation of Coltrane’s seminal session. MORE

February 1, 2015

Steve Lacy

Steve Lacy Cycles (1976-80) Emanem 5205

Derek Bailey/Joëlle Léandre/George Lewis/Evan Parker

Dunois 1982

Fou Records FR-CD 06

Frank Lowe Quartet

Out Loud

Triple Point Records TPR 209

Don Pullen

Richard’s Tune

Delmark/Sackville CD2-3008

Ted Daniel’s Energy Module

Energy Module

NoBusiness Records NBCD 72/73

Something In The Air: Revolutionary Records Redux

By Ken Waxman

November 3, 2013

Arrivals/Departures-New Horizons in Jazz

Stuart Broomer, Brain Morton & Bill Shoemaker
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

Book shelf: By Ken Waxman

Distinguished as much for its scholarship as the artful, mostly color photos and illustrations which make it an attractive souvenir, this 240-page volume is published by Lisbon’s annual Jazz em Agosto (JeA) Festival to mark its 30th anniversary of innovative programming. It says a lot about the individuals who program JeA that rather than commissioning a vainglorious run-down of the festival’s greatest hits, they turned to three respected jazz critics to profile 50 of the most important musicians, living or dead, who performed at the festival. MORE

January 11, 2013

Rhapsody’s 2012 Jazz Critics' Poll

Individual Ballot
From Ken Waxman

• Your name and primary affiliation(s) (no more than two, please)

Ken Waxman

Jazz Word (; The New York City Jazz Record

• Your choices for 2012's ten best new releases listed in descending order one-through-ten.

1. François Houle Genera Songlines SGL 1595-2

2. Fred Ho/Quincy Saul The Music of Cal Massey: A Tribute Mutable/Big Red Media 004

3. William Parker Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings 1976–1987 NoBusiness Records NBCD 42-47 MORE

August 16, 2012

Steve Lacy

The Sun (1967-73)
Emanem 5022

Steve Lacy Quintet


Clean Feed CF 247 CD

Comfortable in his status as an expatriate musician, by the late 1960s soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy (1934-2004) was ensconced in Europe experimenting with different configurations. When he finally settled on his unique version of the quintet format, he maintained it on-and-off for the next quarter century. These valuable reissues of tracks from 1967, 1968, 1972 and 1973 not only itemize his early combo experiments, but also demonstrate the subtle shifts in Lacy’s playing at that time that would characterize his work from then on. MORE

August 16, 2012

Steve Lacy Quintet

Clean Feed CF 247 CD

Steve Lacy

The Sun (1967-73)

Emanem 5022

Comfortable in his status as an expatriate musician, by the late 1960s soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy (1934-2004) was ensconced in Europe experimenting with different configurations. When he finally settled on his unique version of the quintet format, he maintained it on-and-off for the next quarter century. These valuable reissues of tracks from 1967, 1968, 1972 and 1973 not only itemize his early combo experiments, but also demonstrate the subtle shifts in Lacy’s playing at that time that would characterize his work from then on. MORE

August 6, 2012

Label Spotlight

SLAM Productions
By Ken Waxman

Serendipity not strategy led to the birth of the British label SLAM 23 years ago, which since that time, from its base in Abingdon, six miles south of Oxford, has grown to a catalogue of almost 160 releases from European, South and North American improvisers.

SLAM simply came about when journeyman multi-reedist George Haslam, who at 50 had played with everyone from ‘30s dance band trumpeter Nat Gonella to free music trombonist Paul Rutherford decided he wanted to release a disc of solo baritone saxophone improvisations. “I made a couple of LPs on Spotlite with my group, but I wanted to make a solo improvised recording and I knew this would not fit with Spotlite whose beginnings had been with Charlie Parker,” he recalls. “I spoke to Eddie Prevost [who runs the Matchless label] and others, coming to the conclusion that the best way to do this and have complete control, was to do it myself. Eddie advised me to do a CD, not an LP – which, in 1989, was excellent advice. In the event I recorded an album of solos and duos with Paul Rutherford called 1989 - and all that”. MORE

June 5, 2012

Label Spotlight

Potlatch Records
By Ken Waxman

Performing music’s loss is recorded music’s gain since Paris-based Jacques Oger abandoned his gig as a saxophonist with the free music trio Axolotl in the mid-1980s. Turning to market research, communication and translations, by 1997 he had saved enough to found Potlatch which to date has released 35 high-quality CDs. Oger spent 10 years with Axolotl, during which the band recorded two LPs and gigged frequently. He stopped playing, he admits “because I thought I was not creative enough to keep on in that area of music.” He was creative enough though when he translated his love for experimental music into a record label. MORE

April 6, 2012

Andrea Centazzo

The New York City Jazz Record Interview
By Ken Waxman

Founder in the late ‘70s of ICTUS, one of the first European artist-run labels that recorded free music, Italian-American percussionist, composer and multi-media artist Andrea Centazzo is celebrating the label 35th anniversary at The Stone this month. The festival showcases the many genres of experimental music Udine, Italy-born Centazzo, 64, has been involved with over the years. On hand will be many of his collaborators from the US and Italy. Centazzo’s musical scope is so large that some of his other musical ventures, such as composing for film, theatre and large non-jazz ensembles, could barely be mentioned in the conversation below. MORE

January 20, 2012

Rhapsody's 2011 Jazz Critics' Poll

Individual Ballot
From Ken Waxman

1) Your name and primary affiliation(s) (no more than two, please)

2) Ken Waxman

Jazz Word ( )

3) Your choices for 2011's ten best new releases (albums released between Thanksgiving 2010 and Thanksgiving 2011, give or take), listed in descending order one-through-ten.

1. World Saxophone Quartet Yes We Can Jazzwerkstatt JW 098

2. Gerald Cleaver Uncle June Be It As I See It Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT-375

3. Hubbub Whobub Matchless MRCD 80 MORE

December 10, 2011

Steve Lacy

School Days
Emanem 5016

By Ken Waxman

Nearly 50 years later it seems unbelievable, but this all-star quartet broke up after a couple of years of almost no work because few wanted to support a band that exclusively played what was then thought of as far-out music by pianist/composer Thelonious Monk. Yet, on the basis of the material recorded here in 1963, with Henry Grimes stentorian walking bass timbres and Dennis Charles’ free-flowing drum beats on side, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy and trombonist Roswell Rudd were already so familiar with the Monk cannon that they were able to create their own swinging variations on such now-familiar Monk fare as Monk’s Dream and Brilliant Corners. MORE

April 8, 2011

FMP In Rückblick

In Retrospect 1969-2010
FMP CD 137 - FMP CD 148

Something in the Air: FMP`s 40th Anniversary

By Ken Waxman

Throughout jazz history, independent labels have typified sounds of the time. In the Swing era it was Commodore; Modern jazz was prominent on Blue Note and Prestige; and with Improvised Music, FMP is one of the longest lasting imprints. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Berlin-based label has given listeners a spectacular birthday present with FMP In Rückblick – In Retrospect 1969-2010,12 [!] CDs representing FMP’s past and future – the oldest from 1975, the newest, by American cellist Tristan Honsinger and German guitarist Olaf Rupp from 2010, half previously unissued – plus an LP-sized, 218-page book, lavishly illustrated with contemporary photographs, posters, album covers and a discography. MORE

November 29, 2010

Steve Lacy

Intakt CD 171

Urs Leimgruber

Chicago Solo

Leo Records CD LR 570

Evan Parker

Whitstable Solo

psi 10.01

At this late date there’s nothing particularly startling about solo saxophone sessions. What is remarkable about the reed essays here is how differently master improvisers approach the challenge.

American Steve Lacy (1934-2004), who arguably perfected the concept in the early 1970s, was wedded to the song form, as he demonstrates on November, one of his final solo recording. Briton Evan Parker, 65, who shortly after Lacy’s experiments brought the saxophone further into the realm of abstractions, multiphonics and tonal coloration, optimizes the spatial and resonate qualities of an older church on Whitstable Solo. Meanwhile Swiss Urs Leimgruber, 58, who studied with Lacy and has recorded with Parker, has likewise evolved his own variation on this reed investigation; more abstract than Lacy’s design, but less concerned with extended circular breathing than Parker’s initiative. MORE

March 8, 2010

Sound Commitments Avant-Garde Music and the Sixties

Edited by Robert Adlington
Oxford University Press

“If you remember the Sixties, it means you weren’t there” is a cliché with a kernel of truth in it – especially the insistence that rock sounds subsumed other music then. Yet the Sixties also saw mass acceptance of New and electronic music, while jazz’s most radical sounds divorced it from its role as entertainment.

Sound Commitments aims to redefine that momentous decade in a dozen essays about advanced sonic experimentation that tried to negotiate the currents between political movements and individual expression. On the evidence, triumph of the later over the former created the longest lasting sounds. MORE

July 3, 2009

Musica Elettronica Viva

MEV 40
New World Records 80675-2

Consisting of a nucleus of academically trained composers who promoted free improvisation and group interaction, Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV) was the sort of musical aggregation that could only have been born in the 1960s.

Yet as this absorbing four-CD set of MEV performances – from its beginning in 1967, to its 40th anniversary – proves, the group’s triumphs are musically sophisticated as well as sociologically notable. Willingly subsuming the vaulted tradition of a single composer into group interaction, MEV’s most notable pieces added the smarts of jazz improvisers and the sonic versatility of increasingly complex electronic instruments to the compositional stew. Furthermore, the group has survived all these years because it never allowed electronics to submerge its initial humanistic and populist approach. MORE

July 2, 2008

Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd Quartet

Early and Late
Cuneiform Records Rune 250/251

Slightly deceptively titled this memorable two-CD set celebrates the four-decades-long collaboration between trombonist Roswell Rudd and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. The title is ambiguous because while four tracks are by the legendary 1962 Lacy-Rudd quartet, the remaining nine showcase the reconstituted partnership late (1999) and very late (2002) in its tenure – Lacy died in 2004.

Overall the quartet – featuring bassist Bob Cunningham and drummer Dennis Charles in 1962 and bassist Jean- Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch later on – performs the timeless repertoire that characterized Lacy-Rudd meetings in the intervening years: single lines by Cecil Taylor, Herbie Nichols and Rudd plus five originals by Lacy and a large helping of Thelonious Monk’s music, which the two championed years before its adoption by the repertory movement. MORE

January 1, 2007

Steve Lacy/John Heward

Recessional (for Oliver Johnson)
Mode Avant 04

Culmination of a 20-year friendship, Montreal drummer John Heward’s and American soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy’s first – and last – duo concert is preserved on this CD. A less-than-39-minute bagatelle, Recessional gains added poignancy due to Lacy’s death from cancer a year later.

It’s fitting that the live show honored Oliver Johnson, long-time drummer in the saxophonist’s Paris-based sextet. For Heward, a renowned Canadian painter and sculptor, has recently evolved into an avocational percussionist, proficient enough to play with improv masters like multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee and violinist Malcolm Goldstein MORE

November 7, 2005


Red Toucan # RT 9327

One More Time
Leo Records CD LR 422

Partnerships new and old, each of these fine CDs feature French bassist Joëlle Léandre bonding musically with an American. Both prove that the versatile Paris-based low-pitched string player can adapt and amplify unique timbres produced by other players who have little in common besides birthplace.

Fittingly each was recorded outside the United States. On ONE MORE TIME, her main man is the late soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, with the CD recorded in Brussels during one of the longtime expatriate’s farewell to Europe concerts before he relocated to Boston. FIREDANCE finds the bull fiddler at the Guelph (Ontario) Jazz Festival matching licks with Bay-area violinist India Cooke. Léandre’s longtime experience with outside string slingers like Lisbon’s Carlos Zingaro makes her the perfect foil for Cooke, who has played with advanced bassists like Canadian Lisle Ellis. Both also worked with trombonist George Lewis. MORE

January 19, 2004


The Beat Suite
Sunnyside/Enja SSC 3012

Unquenchable Fire
Deep Listening DL 19-2003

Blending music and texts -- either poetry or prose -- has never been a particularly easy task, especially when the music involved is improvised. Yet for the past 50 years at least, variations of the concept have been tried with various degrees of success.

Among his other sonic inquiries, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy has turned his hand to text-based material for many years; he has been able to utilize the voice of his partner Irene Aebi as his speaker/vocalist since the late 1960s. THE BEAT SUITE is his most recent grapple with the concept -- and one that is particularly apt. The words, which intermingle with the music here, were written by 10 of the most accomplished Beat versifiers. All had or have an affinity for improvised music and most were known personally by either Lacy or Abei. MORE

December 22, 2003


The Holy la
Sunnyside SSC 1120

Definitely not a misprint for the common expression “the Holy Land”, this fine trio CD takes its name from something held even more sacred by musicians: “la”, the pitch to which all instruments are almost always tuned.

During the course of these nine tracks, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy and his associates also prove that they can do just anything they want with any variations of “la” and the other degrees of the scale most famously celebrated by Rodgers and Hammerstein in the song “Do-Re-Mi”. MORE

November 24, 2003

Stve Lacy/Gil Evans

Paris Blues
Sunnyside/Owl SSC 3505

Paolo Sorge

Trinkle Trio

Auand AU9003

Programming a CD of jazz classics can be a mug’s game, especially if the compositions have a familiar resonance for many people. Play them too close to the originals and they sounds like imitations; make them too different and they sound like parodies.

This brand-new CD by a Mediterranean trio and a reissued disc by two American jazz masters attempt to overcome the challenge in different fashions. Although impressive, neither is 100 pert cent satisfying. MORE

September 1, 2003


Splasc (h) CDH 843.2

Il Principe
Splasc (h) CDH 180.2

One of Italy’s most accomplished jazz composers, Varese-born pianist/keyboardist Riccardo Fassi, 48, divides his time between teaching, composing film scores, small combo work and his own big band, the Tankio Band, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Tugged every which way by commitments, he’s like certain of his North American counterparts who bring an admirable professionalism to many projects, but seem to lack a fervent commitment to music’s transcendent power. In the end a job is a job. This is apparent on these discs which features the pianist in different settings with committed American saxophonists. MORE

May 12, 2003


Sketch SKE 332028

Opposite to the average person who supposedly becomes more conservative as he or she ages, improvisers seem to go in a contrary direction. In earlier times Duke Ellington and Coleman Hawkins -- to take two examples -- were still experimenting with new methods in their sixties and seventies. Today, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Derek Bailey and Steve Lacy, all of whom are on either side of 70, are as probing in their playing as they ever were.

Take WORK, American soprano saxophonist Lacy’s newest session recorded in France with 63-year-old Swiss drummer Daniel Humair and relative young’un -- American bassist Anthony Cox. With all musicians in perfect control of their instruments, it’s as satisfying a session as Lacy has made in his almost 50 year recording career. MORE

November 11, 2002


10 of Dukes + 6 Originals
Senators Records SEN-01

Approaching a mixed program of 10 familiar Duke Ellington compositions and six originals would be a provocative venture for any musician. Doing the whole thing on solo soprano saxophone should be even more daunting. But 68-year-old Steve Lacy has been going against the grain for almost half a century, so one more challenge doesn’t faze him.

Initially attracted to the soprano after hearing Sidney Bechet playing Ellington’s “The Mooche”, a variation of which is rhythmically deconstructed on this fine disc, Lacy soon moved from Dixieland to the avant garde in the company of pianist Cecil Taylor in the mid-1950s. Unclassifiable since then, Lacy who recently returned to the United States after three decades in France, has played in many countries of the world and with the equivalent of several symphony orchestras worth of musicians. He has been associated with musicians as different as jazzers Thelonious Monk and trumpeter Don Cherry, classical composer/pianist Frederic Rzewski and Euro improvisers, guitarist Derek Bailey and pianist Misha Mengelberg. He organized repertory bands before they were fashionable, was allied with the New Thing but never part of it, early on allied songs and spoken work with improvised music, and has lead a series of impressive French-based sextets and trios over the past 20 years. MORE

April 29, 2001


between the lines btl 011/EFA 10181-2

Recorded in 1973, 1975 and 1976, these early glimpses into the mind of Austrian brassman Franz Koglmann surprisingly show him still wedded to an American free jazz conception, though his own ideas are starting to come through as well.

Or perhaps it shouldn't be that astonishing, considering that American soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy is present on most tracks. Additionally, the more than 17 minute "For Franz", initially released in a limited edition of 500 with hand painted covers, features Koglmann's early influence, trumpeter Bill Dixon and two other Americans.


April 22, 2000


Potlatch P299

If any two musicians can be said to be the "fathers" of the European free jazz/improv, then the two represented on this thought-provoking session could claim the title(s).

In actuality British guitarist Bailey and American saxophonist Lacy would likely opt for the inclusion of a gang of other Continental and British improvisers, but it's they who set the standard for non-idiomatic playing and have more-or-less stayed true to it ever since.

Lacy, jazz's first modern soprano saxist had already been a valuable addition to the ensembles of leaders as individualist as Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor before a more sympathetic climate drew him to Europe in the mid-1960s. Since then, from his Paris base he has mixed and matched his talents with improvisers of every stripe, country and temperament, while never losing sight of his jazz roots. Along with such quirky experiments as creating settings for poetics and perfecting the solo saxophone recital, he's still managed to put out discs celebrating such giants as Monk, Ellington and Herbie Nichols.