The 1971 session Wordless is an interesting and often overlooked entry in the long discography of saxophonist Steve Lacy. Relatively new to Paris at the time (he and his wife Irene Aebi had relocated there just two years earlier), Lacy was by all appearances inspired by the momentum among visiting and relocated African Americans (Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago among them) that was being documented by the BYG/Actuel label.
Whatever the inspiration, Wordless is the rare free-improv record from a Lacy band, especially from his early days. The title may well come from Aebi's role on cello (prior to her switch to violin) as she passes on the vocals that make her a controversial presence among some Lacy aficionados. The rest of the band is an interesting amalgam, with Chicagoan Jerome Cooper on drums and Kent Carter, who permanently left the States for Europe in 1969 and would work with Lacy of choice for years to come, on bass. Rounding out the group is the little heard South African trumpeter Ambrose Jackson, who appeared on several Lacy and BYG sessions, but seems to have disappeared shortly thereafter.
As a Lacy record, it's not the most satisfying. Musical themes are worked here that would be revisited in years to come, but it doesn't have the feeling of cohesiveness Lacy usually generates (nor does it have any Monk songs!). In hindsight, it feels more like a product of those anything-goes Parisian days, which in itself makes it an interesting document. The compositions are all credited to Lacy, but it is infused with the inventive flurry of '60s free improvisation.
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