There is no one more dedicated to the work of saxophonist and composer Steve Lacy than is Martin Davidson, and his knowledge of Lacy's huge corpus is matched by his dedicated efforts in assembling compilations such as this. Taped between 1976-1980, these performances, most previously unreleased, add significantly to Lacy's already daunting solo discography and allow alternative views of long-familiar music.
Davidson has assembled a solo version of the Shots cycle, an experience very different from that afforded by the LP containing the same compositions but with accompaniment from a traditional Japanese percussionist. Take "The Wire," to cite one example. On both the studio version and this newly released live rendition, a metronome is used as accompaniment, but in concert, Lacy somehow makes the metronome swing, conjuring shades of Lennie Tristano's "Turkish Mambo," where a metronome is used to similar effect. There's something about the way Lacy phrases the multi-registral melody against the constant ticking of time that really brings life to this version. All of the "Shots" pieces have an immediacy, a sense of adventure and discovery, that makes these readings seem definitive.
While many of the recordings on the first disc are plagued by technical misfortunes, a fact that assured Davidson quite a lot of restorative work, the second disc's sound fares much better, which is to be expected as they were recorded by Peter Pfister. The last two tracks on the first disc and all of the second capture Lacy in a stunning church acoustic, and we hear every detail of his fearless performances in stark relief. The three pieces comprising "Sands" come off particularly well. "Stand"'s opening declamations reverberate with all the import they are meant to have, and the performance itself is much more daring than its later studio counterpart. I had never considered the harmonic implications of "Jump," which are made evident by the ample acoustic as the tune swings its way forward.
Whatever convergent or divergent histories these tracks have before or after the present recordings were committed to tape, this double disc must surely now be considered one of the most important in Lacy's solo discography. Among other important releases, Emanem has given us the two Avignon volumes, brought the justly lauded School Days recordings back into circulation, and now, these cycles elucidate yet another facet of Steve Lacy's long, circuitous and yet infinitely rewarding musical biography.
Comments and Feedback: