Steve Lacy


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Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy is the only jazz musician who doesn't play piano who can get away with recording solo as much as he does. Why? Simple: Lacy reinvents himself as a soloist every time he's placed inside a situation like this. No matter how familiar he is with the material, he springs from it fresh, shining streams of white light into darkened corners. This date, recorded in a French studio in 1990, finds Lacy using Monk -- "Work" this time out -- as a springboard for his own compositions and improvisations, among them: "Morning Joy," "Clichés," and "The Gleam." Lacy moves from Monk, analyzing the melodic line and breaking it down fragmentally into micro-melodies, creating a sort of counterpoint not to melody but whatever harmony exists in space. From here he swivels his way -- without stopping -- into "Morning Joy," quoting everyone from Ben Webster to Pee Wee Russell and Messiaen before going of into a scalar study of B flat, and then moving into a meditation on post-Coltrane modalism. And each new improvisation sets up seamlessly the composition that follows, creating a panorama of unconventional sound studies that contradict all notions of how Western harmony works -- while remaining true to his own lyrical sensibilities, which are considerable. And for Lacy, this isn't deconstruction but reconstruction, opening up a piece of music to find out what's there -- this time. That he continues to swing and uses blues as his touchdown point is remarkable with music this sophisticated. There isn't a dull moment in this set, and given Lacy's own restlessness and relentless pursuit of the hidden note, there's no reason to suggest there should be.

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