Intakt CD 171





Si, malheureusement, les détails déchirants et bien audibles – souffle, voix, doigts, embouchure – ne manquent pas dans ce concert zurichois de novembre 2003 (d’abord fragile puis trouvant dans son espace même de nouvelles forces), ce n’est pas d’eux qu’il tire sa grandeur, ni du fait qu’il s’agisse du « dernier » solo de Steve Lacy (saxophone soprano)…
Cette précision morbide me semble d’ailleurs erronée : on voudra bien reconnaître que c’est au début des années 70 (1971 pour Lapis, en studio, chez Saravah ; 1972 pour un fameux live avignonnais, chez Emanem) que le sopraniste a commencé à déposer ses calligraphies solitaires, mais rien ne me convaincra – pas même la date du 4 juin 2004 – de la moindre cessation de cette activité essentielle, poétique, visant à désencombrer le monde. Ne peut-on encore l’entendre, chaque jour, dans l’ordonnancement d’une architecture ou d’une plantation de jeunes bouleaux, dans la disposition d’objets sur une table ?
Quant à appréhender cet enregistrement sous l’angle du contenu récapitulatif ou « programmatique » de la sélection des pièces (une lecture biographique et érudite de leur puzzle en est possible… mais qu’apprend-elle finalement ?), cela ne semble en offrir qu’une approche encore trop littérale.
En forme de méditation, le concert est porté par un pouls, un tempo général très intimement organique et accordé à l’énergie, ou à la faiblesse, du moment ; s’y déploie, par le subtil ressassement, à diverses échelles (parfois jusqu’à l’hypnose), par le léger déplacement, tout l’art lacyen ; ayant plus que tout autre trait au Temps, il est parvenu à subvertir la chronologie et à s’y soustraire : chaque composition y ménage une fenêtre, un trou, fait accéder à une dimension neuve.
Le coup de pinceau a beau s’alléger, Lacy, esprit vif, n’en reste pas moins d’une dignité bouleversante, à l’approche d’une autre temporalité.
Guillaume Tarche, Le son du grisli, France, May 2010


Ben Ratliff, New York Times, May 31, 2010


Fotographien, Filme, Schallplatten sind Medien der Schizophonie und der Schizovision. Sie vermitteln und vergegenwärtigen etwas, das fort oder vergangen ist, als da. Sogar Tote geistern weiter, als Avatare auf Folie gebannt. Vielleicht ist das unsere Art von Totenkult, als Beweis, dass der Tod doch nicht der große Abspalter ist. STEVE LACY ist Anfang Juni 2004 gestorben. Als er sein letztes Sopranosolokonzert beim Unerhört!-Festival in der Roten Fabrik in Zürich (29.11.2003) spielte, war ihm schon bewusst, dass er seinen 70. Geburtstag wohl nicht mehr erleben könnte. November (Intakt CD 171) ist insofern zweifellos etwas Besonderes. Aber, obwohl Lacys Testament, ist da nichts Morbides. Denn mit dem Tod hat sich Steven Norman Lackritz schon lange auseinandergesetzt. Mit Gedichten von Zen-Mönchen angesichts ihres Todes (auf The Cry, 1999), wovon er auch hier eines anstimmt: If I must die / Let it be autumn / Ere / The dew is dry. Durch Hommagen an verehrte Tote wie Jean Cocteau, Wayne Marsh, Chet Baker und viele andere. Mit Titeln wie 'Revolutionary Suicide', 'Existence' oder 'Deadline'. Zudem häuften sich Kompositionen, mit denen er verstorbener Freunde und Helfer gedachte - 'The Crust' (für Rex Stewart), 'Tina's Tune' (für Tina Wrase), 'Blues for Aida' (für Aquirax Aida), 'The Hoot' (für John Gilmore), 'The Rent' (für Laurent Goddet). Diese fünf, dazu 'Moms' (ein Porträt seiner Mutter und der von Irene Äebi), 'The Door', 'The New Duck', 'The Whammies' und zuletzt, con amore, 'Reflections' von Thelonious Monk, bildeten das Programm dieses denkwürdigen Abschiedskonzertes eines Mannes, der mehr hinterlässt als das Wörtchen 'lacyesk'. Sein unverwechselbarer vogeliger Gesang, den er als Entenquack ironisiert, ist, wie diese Aufnahme gut hörbar macht, Ergebnis von lebenslanger Übung und Suche, auch von Anstrengung. Was Lacy fand und hinterlässt, auf besonders berührende Weise ein letztes Mal an diesem Abend, ist eine existentielle Vexation von heiter und nachdenklich, melancholisch, von Semper Amore und Memento Mori. Und vielleicht ist Ersteres ja die Anwort auf Letzteres.
Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy Magazin 66, Deutschland, Frühling 2010


Steve Lacy (1934-2004) held several distinctions in his 50-year career. He, alongside John Coltrane, was responsible for the modern template of soprano saxophone playing. He was one of few musicians whose work is appreciated by both straight-ahead and avant-garde listeners. And he perhaps had albums released by more different labels than any other artist in jazz history (over 150). Concert recordings are still being issued and reissued on a swathe of imprints, keeping Lacy's remarkable music still flowing. And adding to this legacy is the young quartet Ideal Bread, laudably dedicating themselves to performing the late master's compositions.
One of Lacy's favored environments was solo. Even more so than Evan Parker or Anthony Braxton, Lacy's almost 20 albums unaccompanied defined the possibilities of an instrumentalist reacting to himself. November documents his final solo performance, given as part of the Unerhört Festival in Zurich, recorded November 29, 2003, a few months after being diagnosed with cancer and less than a year before his death. The material is taken from the entire arc of Lacy's career: '70s ("The Crust," "Moms," "The New Duck," "The Whammies"); '80s ("The Door," "The Rent"); '90s ("Blues for Aida," "The Hoot"). There is also a new tune—"Tinas Tune," featuring Lacy's vocals—and, appropriately, the program ends with a reading of Monk's "Reflections," demonstrating that Lacy was an artist who worked in subtle layers rather than radical departures. Lacy's wonderful, dry tone is still here, as his metrical understanding and forward vision that make his solo statements never seem thin. As is the case with the Egg Farm recording, Lacy's currency is melodic and motific development sans the usual avant-garde flourishes or textural filler, placing even more pressure on him as a solo performer.
Andrey Henkin,, USA, June 12, 2010


Even without the back story of November, the music of soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy exists on its own merits. Compare this live recording to the two dozen-plus solo sessions by this master, and it stands up to any of them.
Not that Lacy was in his finest form here, having been diagnosed with liver cancer. He was to pass away within six months. Did the audience that November night in Switzerland know of his fate? Maybe. Certainly the music heard suggests an artist thinking about the great beyond.
Lacy's final recording further strips away the man's neurons and dendrite. He bares raw emotion, coaxing (sometime out of breath) notes with his renowned élan. In the 1960s, he bridged classical jazz with the avant-garde, and he did it with his funny sounding straight horn. Before John Coltrane began performing with the soprano, Lacy was an advocate the horn. His unique voice and love of the music of Thelonious Monk carved out a niche for his voice.
That voice, so recognizable, is heard here—a little more splintery but with full expression. He opens with the sanguine "The Crust," playing with a kind of "stiff upper lip" positiveness, his notes keeping the tent up. Later he pauses, during "Tina's Tune," to sing the words, "If I must die/Let it be autumn/Ere the dew is dry," by the Japanese writer Ozaki Koyo; his breathless song a clue to the program.
Not to be dire, Lacy immediately slugs on with the stellar "The Door," a platform for extended technique and insider blue, finally turning to his old friend Monk and ending the set with "Reflections." The familiar tune, played simply and without adornment resolves the long and storied career of perhaps the finest jazz soprano saxophonist ever.
Mark Corroto,, USA, June 13, 2010


Steve Lacy’s final public solo recital took place in Zürich, Switzerland, on 29 November 2003, three months following the diagnosis of the cancer which would take his life. No doubt, the mood in the room that evening intensified the experience for all in attendance, and knowing what we know now, in retrospect, will affect the way some listeners will respond to this disc. But the music should – and does – stand on its own. Lacy was a master of the solo performance, employing a keenly focused sense of pacing, choice of repertoire, tonal tension, exposed vulnerability, and generous spirit to his particular expressive ends. Fortunately, there is no evidence of the kind of failing instrumental powers which made the last recordings of Coleman Hawkins or Chet Baker, for example, such painful, albeit honest, documents. Lacy sounds fluent, willing to take risks, and in characteristically remarkable control of the soprano throughout the program – witness the microtonal coloring of pitch in “The Door,” the playfully distorted tonal qualities in “The New Duck” – even as he grunts with the effort of projecting the tangled lines of “The Hoot.”
That said, there are moments here which nevertheless evoke the special circumstances of the event. There are several layers of dramatic irony in his decision to play elegies for lost friends, the most poignant of which occurs as he sings the haiku “If I must die/Let it be autumn/Ere/The dew is dry,” the phrases punctuated by his shortness of breath, in “Tina’s Tune.” The hazy, haunting resonance that emerges as he blows the soprano directly onto the piano strings during “Blues for Aida” is like an audible apparition.
And it’s hard not to hear the encore, a lovely diversion on Monk’s “Reflections,” as a valedictory gesture, even down to the witty little flourish with which he ends.
Art Lange,, Issue 29 - June 2010


Interview (January 2004) by Ed Hazell with Steve Lacy and Irene Aebi,, Issue 29 - June 2010


Frank von Niederhäusern, Kulturtipp, Schweiz, Juni 2010


Ulrich Steinmetzger, Leipziger Volkszeitung, Deutschland, 18. Juni 2010


Sterkt farvel
På denne liveinnspillinga fra Zürich i Sveits får vi være med på Steve Lacys aller siste solokonsert.
Da Steve Lacy la ned sopransaksofonen for godt i juni 2004, knapt 70 år gammel, var en av de mest spennende karrierene i moderne jazz over. Lacy markerte seg først som tradjazzmusiker på 50-tallet, men ganske raskt var det mer moderne toneganger som tiltalte han – spesielt var og forble Thelonious Monk en viktig retningsgiver og inspirator for Lacy.
Fra 1970 til et par år før han gikk bort var Lacy bosatt i Paris og hadde et betydelig større navn i Europa enn ”hjemme” i USA, der han tilbrakte livskvelden sin visstnok av skattemessige årsaker.
Den 29. november 2003 spilte Lacy på Unerhört-Festival i Zürich foran et publikum som skjønte at dette kunne være siste gangen de hadde mulighet til å høre denne unike musikanten. Kreftsjukdommen hadde allerede satt sine tydelige spor og det var en fysisk svekka Lacy som inntok scena.
Den kreative krafta derimot var det ikke noe feil på. Mutters aleine med sin sopransaksofon, han spilte utelukkende sopran de siste tiåra av karriera si, ga han publikum ca 45 minutter med musikk som ingen andre verken før eller seinere kunne ha skapt. Ni egne komposisjoner samt Monks ”Reflections” som ekstranummer, blir gitt oss på et så inderlig, originalt og ekte vis som vel mulig. Det blir av og til hevda at musikere spiller som om det er deres siste dag på jord – for Steve Lacys del var det ingen floskel og han visste at enhver konsert kunne være hans farvel.
En av den moderne jazzens store originaler takka av på et utrolig sterkt vis. Seks år etter at Steve Lacy forlot tida lever musikken hans som om den var skapt nå – den er med andre ord tidløs.
Tor Hammerø,, Norway, 22.6.2010


Christoph Wagner, Schwarzwälder Bote, 30. Juni 2010


The world of improvised music lost one of the greats when Steve Lacy ceased walking this earth. His music was as singular as that of anyone who has graced that world, and the fact that he chose to communicate exclusively through the medium of the soprano saxophone had the effect of elevating him to a rare position. All the singularity with which he pursued his muse is here on this his last recorded solo recital from 2003.
Lacy's approach to the straight horn had by this time not so much mellowed as grown more considered, with the weight of experience manifesting itself in the manner in which he teased a line out. "Moms" exemplifies this, where repetition of miniature phrases within the line has the effect of creating the kind of tension that Lacy, inscrutable to the last, never resolves with ill-judged emotion. Even in light of such a measured approach, the playful side of his musical personality, a quality he arguably shared with Thelonious Monk, still comes to the fore.
As was Lacy's way, one of Monk's pieces gets an airing here. "Reflections" is melodically so singular that perhaps only a musician who's put in the level of study that Lacy did of Monk's music can truly get something out of it. In this reading Lacy makes the most of the extraordinary intervals even while he gets in some melodic variations of his own. In so doing he pulls off an exceptional feat, reworking the piece to his own design in a manner which isn't so much an overhaul as it is a rethinking. In a sense it's an antithesis of the kind of sterile rereading that repertory can often amount to.
Lacy the composer had a vocabulary of his own too. "The Hoot" is the sound of something teased out of the silence, but then as a soloist he was nothing if not acutely aware of the potential of the silence. Here his control of the soprano's upper registers is as noteworthy as it is anywhere on this program, the notes coming with only a minimal loss of resonance and the same level of consideration as pervades the rest of his playing. Here it's also noticeable how the man had long since given up on striving for effect. Consequently his lyricism comes into its own as but one important facet of his musical personality. It's as effective a way as any of demonstrating that we'll not see his like again.
Nic Jones,, USA, July 11, 2010


Sometimes it is impossible to talk about a CD without delving in to the back-story. This live recording from a November 2003 performance at the Unerhört! Festival in Switzerland captures the last solo performance by Steve Lacy, just three months after he learned that he had cancer and six months before his death. He would go on to perform a handful of times afterwards (including a killer two-night run in Boston performing The Beat Suite which I was fortunate enough to attend), but the solo performances always feel especially close to the heart of Lacy's music, so this concert takes on particular significance.
As always, he assembled the program with care, and it's shadowed by a sense of his own mortality. "Blues for Aida" was written for the young Japanese producer who died shortly after bringing Lacy to Japan in the 70s; "The Rent" is dedicated to Laurent Goddet, a friend from Lacy's early days in Paris who committed suicide; and "Tina's Tune" was written for a friend who died of cancer, based on a haiku by novelist Ozaki Koyo written shortly before his own death. Hearing Lacy chant the poem ("If I must die / Let it be autumn / Ere / The dew is dry") has a chilling poignancy. There's also a cross-section of pieces from Lacy's career, from "The Crust" which he wrote in the early 70s to "The Door" from the late 80s, and as an encore he plays Monk's "Reflections", a piece he first recorded in the late 50s and which encapsulates the reflective mood of the entire session. While the effects of illness are apparent – at times shading Lacy's tone, and also evident when he catches his breath between pieces – this is still very much the work of a master, a final, deeply moving example of his characteristic blend of distilled emotion and cutting directness.
Michael Rosenstein,, Summer 2010


Christoph Wagner, Die Wochenzeitung, Zürich, 15. Juli 2010


Christoph Merki, Tages-Anzeiger, Zürich, 28. Juli 2010


Stewart Lee, Sunday Times, London, August 1, 2010



Ernst Jandls spätes Gedicht „jedes ich nackt“ symbolisiert diese späte, nein, letzte Aufnahme von Steve Lacy. Nackt. Nicht das geringste Dekor, kein Schmuck, unsentimental, schutzlos zur Sache. Und zwar ohne Schnörkel straight into your heart, mitten ins Herz. Und in aller Schnörkellosigkeit – bzw. eben auf diese Weise ohne jede Geheimnistuerei – offen für Geheimnisvolles, Unsagbares. Anders gesagt: für Poesie. Ein einziges Mal durfte ich Lacy live erleben: in Graz, mit einem Monk-Programm. Also ganz im Geiste dessen, der – intellektuell und proletarisch zugleich – den Jazz ein für alle Mal von jenem schmückenden Beiwerk befreit hatte, das heute wieder groß im Kurs steht. Das hört man auch auf seinen Platten mit Mal Waldron, für den gleiches gilt wie für Thelonious Monk. Und jetzt diese wundersame Aufnahme aus dem Jahr 2003, wenige Wochen vor seinem Tod, vom Unerhört-Festival in der Zürcher Roten Fabrik. Ohne Auftrag von der Tonregie mitgeschnitten, von Lacy’s Gattin Irène Aebi, von den Saxofonisten Evan Parker und Jürg Wickihalder und dem Kritiker Bill Shoemaker zur Veröffentlichung ermutigt. Was für eine Platte, aus deren heiterem Himmel, der bei Lacy immer ein bisschen verhangen ist, er in „Tinas Tune“ singt(!). Kurz, aber zu Herzen gehend. Es geht Lacy um die Kunst des Ausdrucks, um nichts sonst. Keine Koketterie, kein Posing, kein selbstverliebter Schnickschnack. Zufällig war November, das gab der Platte den Titel. Einen sprechenden Titel, wie sich im Lauf dieser Aufnahme herauskristallisiert. Soviel Poesie bei soviel Reduktion – dass das möglich ist, führt uns Steve Lacy vor Augen und Ohren, dass einem Sehen und Hören vergeht.
felix, Freistil 32, Österreich 2010


Thomas Hein, Concerto, Österreich, August / September 2010


Duncan Heining, Jazzwise, Great Britain, August 2010




Ken Vos, Jazzism, Nederlande, Herbst 2010


Marcus Maida, Jazzthetik, Deutschland, September/Oktober 2010


Christoph Wagner, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Deutschland, September/Oktober 2010


Bill Meyer, Signal to Noise, USA, Fall 2010


Martin Woltersdorf, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, Deutschland, 17. September 2010


Wolfram Knauer, Jazzpodium, 11/2010, Deutschland


Quando se n'è andato, quel 4 giugno di sei anni fa, non lo si sarebbe detto: che il nome di Steve Lacy - perché é di lui ovviamente che stiamo parlando - sarebbe tornato al centro delle "cose" jazzistiche tutto sommato così di rado (al di là della memoria, indelebile, lasciata in chi l'ha conosciuto e amato, non ultimo per il suo spessore umano), che - soprattutto - così rari sarebbero stati gli inediti emersi dalla polvere.
Il primo fu un Leo con Joëlle Léandre, poi un solo siracusano, e poco altro. Oggi ecco questo nuovo solo live (c'è chi sostiene che in Lacy il valore della musica sia inversamente proporzionale al numero degli esecutori, e non si è neanche poi così lontani dal vero...), tanto prezioso in quanto registrato (a Zurigo) il 29 novembre 2003, cioè appena sei mesi prima della fine (che probabilmente il grande sopranista già sapeva prossima), poi perché servito da un'ottima presa di suono (elemento basilare, nello specifico) e infine perché la musica che vi alberga è di grande livello.
Dei dieci temi prescelti, nove recano la firma di Lacy (alcune delle sue gemme, con quei titoli mono/bisillabici così paradigmatici di una delle sue migliori peculiarità: le straordinarie doti di sintesi), l'ultimo (che è poi il bis del concerto) recupera invece il Maestro di sempre, ovviamente Monk, di cui Lacy è stato - e presumibilmente per sempre rimarrà - interprete insuperato. L'impatto col suono del suo soprano è come sempre impagabile: l'inimitabile aplomb, la stringente essenzialità e geometricità, l'equilibrio delle forme, le ardite elucubrazioni verso vette ora allusive, oblique, ora squittenti, quasi digrignate. Eccetera eccetera...
Risultando pleonastico - oltre che francamente impraticabile - indicare il meglio di un album bellissimo da cima a fondo, ci limitiamo a evidenziarne qualche particolarità. Per esempio il fatto che, in un frammento di "Tina's Tune," scritto in memoria della collega Tina Wrase, prematuramente scomparsa nel settembre 2000, Lacy si fa ascoltare anche alla voce, su versi del poeta tardottocentesco giapponese Ozaki Koyo. Oppure i riverberi caparbiamente cercati (e trovati) nell'olimpico "The Hoot," o ancora il quasi-rumorismo onomatopeico di "The New Duck," tema fra i più particolari del songbook lacyano, l'arguzia di "The Rent," la sghemba circolarità (non è un contrasto in termini, almeno non in Lacy) di "The Wammies".
Insomma: ce ne sarebbe proprio per tutte le borse.
Alberto Bazzurro,, Italy, 06-05-2010


Perhaps the only person to have recorded more solo soprano records than Evan Parker is Steve Lacy. The number is over two dozen. His passing in 2004 left a void but his voluminous discography allows for years of exploration. November was recorded seven months before his death and a few months after his diagnosis of cancer the previous summer. And, yes, mortality is an overriding theme of this, his final solo performance in November of 2003 at the Unerhort! Festival in Zurich. But a distinction has to be made. While death is in the air (and probably on the minds of those who knew of his diagnosis) and it's there in the Ozaki Koyo haiku inserted in "Moms" and in "Tina's Tune" dedicated to recently deceased friend and saxophonist Tina Wrase, there is never a sense of morbidity. Rather, one gets the sense that this is Lacy soldiering on, facing his commitments to his muse and making music that he must make. As for this performance, according to the illuminating
liner notes by Bill Shoemaker, Lacy was weakened yet it doesn't really translate to the disc. On "The Crust" he seems be taking his time, establishing his parameters doling out the phrases of the theme almost playfully. By "The Door" he's growling and snapping, artfully bending phrases and following that with beautiful thematic lines one after the other. Thankfully this is an all-Lacy program featuring some of his most memorable themes including "The New Duck," and "The Door." But the final piece is reserved for his mentor and the man for whose music he was a noted interpreter: Thelonious Monk. Lacy concludes the concert with a touching version of Monk's "Reflection," an all too-fitting conclusion.
I have to confess to being reluctant to listen to this recording knowing the circumstances and finality of the event. But it's a remarkable performance and testament to a musician who has made an indelible mark on Jazz and creative music.
Robert Iannapollo, Cadence Magazine, USA, jan-feb-mar 2011


Dieses Ende November 2003 in der Roten Fabrik Zürich aufgenommene Konzert Lacys ist sein letztes Solo-Zeugnis - und es ist bewegend. Lacy wusste, dass er seit kurzer Zeit Krebs hatte. Dementsprechend lag ein Schatten, aber auch eine latente Spannung über dem Auftritt. Der Gestus dieses Konzertes ist gleichsam von einer eigentümlichen entspannten, Zen-artigen Gelassenheit geprägt. Man kennt den Duktus Lacys, aber im Verlaufe des Hörens dieses Konzertes gewinnt die Musik etwas komplett Magisches und wächst unweigerlich durch das Ohr ins Herz. Die Stücke atmen und erzählen im besten Sinne des Wortes. Seine Technik, Phrasierungen, Schnelligkeit, Tiefe und Intensität lassen bei aller Vermeidung von Sentimentalität jene konkrete Sinnlichkeit entstehen, die das Publikum, frei nach Benjamin, nicht gelehrter, sondern eben gewitzter hinterlässt. Bei aller notwendigen Vermeidung von Pathos und Ahnung, welche die spezielle Situation dieses Konzertes gebietet, sollten wir einfach anerkennen, mit welcher Klarheit, Gelassenheit und lebensphilosophischer Stringenz hier Musik existenziell gemacht wird. Ganz simpel: eine Frage von Leben und Tod.
by HONKER, MADE MY DAY, TERZ-Magazin, Deutschland, Januar 2011

Lars Mossefinn, Jazznytt Nr. 3 / 2011, Norway


Guido Festinese, Il gornale della musica, 4-2011


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