Steve Lacy

Two, Five, Six, Blinks

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The sheer stature of Steve Lacy as an artist after the free-blowing 1960s and early '70s passed can in large part be attributed to the 20-year existence of this band. With only one personnel change -- John Betsch later replaced Oliver Johnson -- the Steve Lacy Sextet changed not only our own ideas about jazz, but also the bandleader's. Evidenced by this live recording of the Sextet, two CDs of sheer, unadulterated musical communication, debate, and resolution that took place far below the surface of six people playing together, it is obvious that the Steve Lacy Sextet will go down in history as one of the great bands in the history of the music. The interesting thing is that over the two sets played here, half the tunes are without Bobby Few, who, for whatever reason, only made half the gig. The rest of the band just stepped in and created new gaps where his had been and filled them. The front line play of the two Steves, Lacy and Potts, trading knotty melody and counterpoint lines as Irene Aebi shifts through cello and violin and Jean-Jacques Avenel carried the term rhythmic bass playing to an entirely new level. On "Blinks," Avenel trades eights with drummer Johnson and pushes the entire frontline into bebop tempos of acute modal invention and contrapuntal improvisation. Between Potts and Lacy's soloing one after the other, the listener can feel the deep listening as one man quotes the other and then moves the idea beyond the original expectation egolessly. On "Clichés," a composition that was fairly new at the time, the aural sound sculpting within the sextet's sense of erecting polytonality and harmony are in evidence. They spend 22 minutes feeling through the various timbres brought forth not only by the saxophones, but by the cello and Aebi's voice. Johnson creates a backdrop that is as wide as a net, and through the holes come the entwining horns of Potts and Lacy taking angles and making them knife edges. When Few enters, as on "Prospectus," the sound somehow becomes less dense, his piano turning the angularity into something fluid and dance worthy, his skittering skeins of notes and octave harmonizing complement Avenel generously in holding the ensemble to the ground while soaring the asymmetrical boundaries of melody with his own improvisations. Given the gorgeous remastering job on this CD set, it has become one of the two or three most necessary recordings of the Steve Lacy Sextet to own.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 7:33
2 16:14
3 7:02
4 18:51

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 14:20
2 23:18
3 14:43
blue highlight denotes track pick