Steve Lacy

New Jazz Meeting Baden-Baden 2002
hatOLOGY 631

Prescient in discerning evolutionary musical currents, American saxophonist Steve Lacy was coming to terms with electro-acoustic improv 18 months before his death at 69 in 2004. Immersed in jazz currents from Dixieland to Free Music during his 50-year career, Lacy, who worked with synthesizers as early as the late 1960s, continuously challenged himself. On New Jazz Meeting he throws himself wholeheartedly into improvising along with electronically guided, live remixes of Austrian Bernhard Lang’s “dw 1.2” series of compositions.

Embellishing the looped compositions with his inimitable timbres, the saxophonist nimbly interacts in different aggregations featuring supple bassist Peter Herbert, understated drummer Wolfgang Reisinger, the turntables of Philip Jeck plus the electronics of Lang himself or Christof Kurzmann. About 16 minutes of this hour plus program was previously released, yet those tracks, linked with four new ones provide a comprehensive picture of Lacy’s interactive activities.

Especially notable is the only track with Kurzmann, Lacy, Herbert and Reisinger. Layered on top of the drummer’s understated cymbal patting and rhythmic rim shots and the bassist’s guitar-like chromatic licks and woody wallops, Lacy interlaces folkloric timbres with Kurzmann’s quivering, near-static, sideband signals. While the electronics’ pulsating and sputtering crackles amplify string pumps and reverberating snare beats, melodically the saxman goes his own way. Never losing concentration, Lacy’s staccato flutter tonguing steers the others towards a fluid, balladic ending.

Lacy’s solo feature, “dw 1.2 remix karlsruhe 3.3”, uses replications of the electronics’ widely vibrated loops as improvisational fodder. Incorporating this raw material along with slurred quotes from Monk and “A Love Supreme”, he maintains a reassuring theme-and-variation pattern throughout, despite altissimo mouthpiece whistles and guttural walrus-like yowls. A jazzman to the end, the saxophonist’s swing sense is paramount even as he plumbs hitherto uncharted territory.

Ken Waxman

CODA Issue 332