Of both historical and musical value, Steve Lacy's Saxophone Special, which features a quartet of saxophonists, was recorded only a couple of months after Anthony Braxton's New York, Fall 1974, which also features a saxophone quartet, and a year or so before the advent of the well-known World Saxophone Quartet. Though the four here are augmented by guitar and synthesizer, the multi-saxophone conception is clearly similar; perhaps the idea was simply "in the air" around that time. All five compositions are by Lacy, and their structure will be familiar to fans of his: quirky, oddly sing-songy, and intricate, their crooked themes serving as complicated ground for improvisation. Evan Parker, Trevor Watts, and future longtime collaborator Steve Potts are lucid and imaginative throughout, riding the ornery accompaniment of Derek Bailey's guitar and the somewhat loopy synthesizer sounds of Michel Waisvisz. It's also a rare (possibly unique) opportunity to hear Parker on baritone for one track. If all involved have performed more inspirationally elsewhere, Saxophone Special is still deserving of a listen both for good, solid playing and to hear one of the earliest manifestations of a grouping that would become more and more common in ensuing years. In 1998, Emanem issued this on disc along with three cuts from a 1973 release, The Crust.
Saxophone Special Review
by Brian Olewnick