Lacy's music was personal, exploratory and driven by a quiet passion. While he was an undeviating experimenter, the quirky beauty of his music frequently had more in common with his original model, Sidney Bechet, than the stylistic distance between them would suggest. Lacy enjoyed fruitful relationships with two formidable pianist-composers - Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor. He also worked with Gil Evans, Don Cherry and many European free-improvisers, crossed into contemporary classical music sometimes with his cellist-singer wife Irene Aebi and experimental electronics and mixed-media, and confronted himself with the daunting challenge of the unaccompanied saxophone recital. Yet for all his work's variety, Lacy always returned to celebrating Monk, his greatest inspiration. Born in New York of Russian descent and raised on the Upper West Side, Lacy had childhood piano lessons, but it was the blazing tone, rhythmic audacity and inventiveness of Sidney Bechet's playing that led him to take up the clarinet and then the soprano saxophone. In the late s, Lacy encountered swing trumpeter Rex Stewart and began working in Dixieland bands with him. During and , the saxophonist studied at Boston's Schillinger House of Music later the Berklee School and at the Manhattan School of Music, before meeting the revolutionary Monk-inspired free-jazz pianist Cecil Taylor.
While many modal and free-jazz saxophonists followed in his footsteps, Lacy remained one of the rare soprano saxophonists to concentrate exclusively on that instrument. Lacy led a series of small groups that usually included his wife, singer-cellist-violinist Irene Aebi; he created musical settings of texts by Lao Tzu , Herman Melville , Robert Creeley , Bengali poet Taslima Nasrin , and others, and he collaborated with dancers and visual artists. In four decades of reunions with trombonist Roswell Rudd and, in duets and combos, with pianist Mal Waldron , he progressed from melodic Monk variations to the most extreme abstraction.
The American saxophonist Steve LACY.
The group played a mix of Monk tunes, Brechtian art song, Beat poems, quirky, catchy originals and, through the quacking sopranos of Lacy and Potts, a virtual conference of the ducks. Steve Lacy Sextet. Tomorrow is Monk's centennial. It's now 35 years since his death in , and over 45 years since his last significant recordings were made. The pianist was 30 by the time he made his first session as a leader for Blue Note, and it took another decade before he really began to develop a dedicated national following. But good things sometimes come to those who wait, and Monk, who enjoyed a fair measure of popular renown in the '60s and a Time Magazine cover story in , is today as iconic as any figure in jazz. His compositions, about 70 in total, are the second most recorded in jazz history, trailing only Duke Ellington, who composed about fifteen times as many works. Speaking of Duke, when Ray Nance first played him one of Monk's early Blue Note sides in , he said, "He sounds like he's stealing my stuff.
Steve Lacy, an American soprano saxophonist who spent more than half of his year career living in Europe and helped legitimize his instrument in postwar jazz, died yesterday in Boston. He was The cause was cancer, according to an announcement from the New England Conservatory of Music, where Mr. Lacy had been teaching since After performing in New York, his hometown, Mr. Lacy moved to Italy and France, and became the most Europeanized of all expatriate American jazz musicians. He married one of his musical collaborators, the Swiss-born singer Irene Aebi, who survives him. He insisted on a literary dimension to his work, incorporating texts by novelists, poets and philosophers -- as well as visual-art and dance components, when time and money allowed. For someone long considered an avant-garde artist, Mr. Lacy always insisted that nobody could get more avant-garde than Louis Armstrong; his best work was anti-highfalutin and doggedly practical.