Lacy, Steve (originally, Lackritz, Steven Norman)

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Lacy, Steve (originally, Lackritz, Steven Norman)

Lacy, Steve (originally, Lackritz, Steven Norman), jazz soprano saxophonist, composer; b. N.Y., July 23, 1934. Lacy has been one of the few to exclusively play the soprano saxophone, perhaps the first in the modern era, and he inspired John Coltrane to take it up. Lacy studied with Cecil Scott and attended both the Schillinger School of Music (now Berklee) and the Manhattan School of Music. He gigged with Dixieland groups in 1952, and then began working and playing with Cecil Taylor (1955–57). He worked for a period in the late 1950s with Gil Evans, Mal Waldron, and Jimmy Giuffre, and also began studying the works of Monk. Rollins invited Lacy to join him on the Williamsburg Bridge in 1960. He spent four months in Monk’s quartet in 1960, then formed his own group with trombonist Roswell Rudd and drummer Dennis Charles, playing almost exclusively Monk material. Lacy left the group in 1965, playing at the Montmartre in Copenhagen, where he joined with Don Cherry and toured Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, and London. In 1966, Lacy left for Buenos-Aires with Enrico Rava, Johnny Dyani, and Louis Moholo; they ended up staying for nine months, but it was extremely difficult to survive as an interracial, free-music group considering the country’s dictatorial and repressive regime (at the time one could be arrested for listening to the Beatles). However, by the end of their stay, the group had a small following for private concerts that Lacy organized, and had appeared on television. He subsequently returned to N.Y. and started another group with Rava. In 1967, Lacy returned to Europe to live with his wife, Irène Aebi. He spent three years in Rome, extensively studying electronics and sound. He moved to Paris in 1970 and since that time has worked regularly with Aebi and Kent Carter; in 1975 they were joined by Steve Potts, Michael Smith, and Oliver Johnson. This sextet has experienced only a few changes in personnel, with Takashi Kako and then Bobby Few replacing Smith, Jean-Jacques Avenel replacing Carter, and John Betsch temporarily replacing Johnson for five years. Lacy also regularly performs solo and in other contexts. In 1996 he was invited for a year’s residency in Berlin, where he met the Bengal poet Taslima Nasreen, whose works he had set to music in The Cry. Returning to Paris in 1997, he continued to work in a trio with Avenel and Betsch, to perform his song cycle Treize Regards based on the writings of Marina Tsvetaïeva, to make music for the Merce; Cunningham Dance Company, and planning to work with Eddy Louis. In 1997 he was nominated to lead the LOrchestre National de Jazz, a jazz band founded in 1986 by the Ministère de la Culture with rotating directors, but because of his own inexperience leading big bands, and the French national government’s requirement that the leader be a French citizen, he did not assume the post. He performed duets with Danilo Perez during a summer 1998 tour of the U.S. He is the subject of the documentary Lift the Bandstand.


Complete S. L (1954); Soprano Saxophone (1957); Reflections (1958); Straight Horn of Steve Lacy (1960); Evidence (with Don Cherry, 1961); School Days (1963); Disposability (1965); Forest and the Zoo (1966); Wordless (1971); Solo (1972); Saxophone Special (1974); Scraps (1974); Axieme (1975); Stabs (1975); Clinkers (1977); Raps (1977); Stamps (1977); Capers (1979); Prospectus (1982); Regeneration (1982); Blinks (1983); Solo (1985); Flim-Flam (1986); Live in Budapest (1986); Only Monk (1986); Super Quartet Live at Sweet Basil (1987); More Monk (1989); Hot House (1990); Rushes: 10 Songs from Russia (1990); Remains (1991); Spirit of Mingus (1991); We See (1992); Vespers (1993); Revenue (1995).


Clifford Preiss, S.L Festival Handbook (N.Y.); H. Lukes Lindenmaier, The S. L. Discography (Germany).

—Lewis Porter