October 4, 2000
Windows: The Music Of Steve Lacy
Blue Chopsticks 4
As the recorded tributes to Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane edge into the triple digits, with Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk appreciations running close behind, it's good to see a different jazzman being honored.
Considering the person is saxophonist Steve Lacy, who has been a spiky iconoclast for most of his almost 50 year career, and the honorer is another exploratory saxophonist, the appeal of this session mounts. Burnishing the salute, Gustafsson is resourceful enough to offer this solo tribute playing different horns then Lacy's signature soprano saxophone and to let loose on his own, as well as Lacy compositions.
What more could anyone want? Well, it depends on the listener. The result, after all, isn't easily listening. But the CD is certainly a must have for anyone seeking a close encounter with the furthest frontiers of modern saxophone playing.
Throughout, the sound comes as much from the reed, keypads, throat, tongue and breath of the Swedish saxophonist as from the compositions themselves. Air being swallowed and expelled is as much a feature of some pieces as the melody.
Probably the smoothest entry into WINDOWS' world is Cecil Taylor's "Louise", which Lacy recorded for Candid in 1961. Rather than playing the melody first, Gustafsson, on tenor sax, leads with his variations, only hinting at the tune. During the more than nine-minute workout that follows it appears again a few times, yet each showing is proceeded or followed by tone digressions and vocalizations.
Keypad slaps used as rhythm are features of compositions like "Prospectus" — at 12 minutes the longest track on the CD. Another experiment the hornman indulges in is alternating constant lip vibrations with deep breaths, finally leading to flurries of foghorn tones or a battalion-like volley of notes. Other sounds must be attributed to the fluteophone — a flute with a saxophone mouthpiece — invented by Gustafsson.
In literature, a major stylist's translation from a different language of another writer's work is fascinating in itself. Since a solo homage is the closest one can get to that conception in a participatory medium such as jazz, this session is doubly interesting.
Track Listing: 1. Deadline 2. Prospects 3. Windows 4. Louise 5. Retreat 6. Outline
Personnel: Mats Gustafsson (tenor and baritone saxophones, fluteophone)