Steve Lacy

Snips: Live at Environ

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Even the most experienced jazz listener might find the idea of over 80 minutes of unaccompanied soprano saxophone a bit daunting. But this is a vital historical document, as it captures the enigmatic Steve Lacy in a 1976 solo concert at Environ, a now-defunct Manhattan loft. Audience and ambient noises make it onto the recording, but these flaws make the loft concert atmosphere more vivid and distract only minimally from the focal point of Lacy's instrument.

Lacy breaks into vocalizations at certain points, as on the opening "Hooky" in which he repeatedly intones "don't go to school" and then uses the phrase as a basis for melodic invention. Similarly, he mouths a Buddhist chant intermittently during the course of the "Four Edges" suite, again using the rhythmic pattern of the phrase as a basis for improvisation.

Along with a six-movement "Tao" suite, Lacy performs "New York Duck," "Snips," "Pearl Street," and "Revolutionary Suicide" during the course of the two discs. Some may find the music, not to mention the solo format, difficult and inaccessible. But Lacy's playing is remarkable for its strong narrative quality and its inexhaustible flow of ideas. This is Lacy stretching to his limits. It's also a rare glimpse into the vibrant New York loft scene of the '60s and '70s.

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