The only thing ‘straight‘ about Steve Lacy’s horn is its shape – as the soprano sax here is used in some extremely inventive and modern ways, especially for the date of the session! We don’t think we’re going out on a limb to say Lacy is one of the foremost melodic improvisers of his time, and easily one of the most talented soprano players too – and his early date as a leader shows both his forward looking involvement with the avant garde (he’d played with Cecil Taylor just before this date and does a couple of his compositions here) and a career-long fascination with Thelonious Monk. Although the group here is piano-less there’s a definite Monk-like edge to many of the numbers, carried off especially by the sharp turns in Lacy’s horn!
This early date shows how masterful Lacy was even at the beginning. Throughout his career he took abstract pieces by people like Monk and Cecil Taylor and reformed them in his own way. His alterations keep the tunes unmistakably identifiable, yet transformed and “Lacy-fied.” Often, when people play Monk tunes, what emerges is a much tamer and straightened version that only makes the original version’s bent brilliance all the more apparent. Lacy bends them in his own superb way, highlighting what great compositions they are and also what a fine player he is. What a great jazz mind he has.
3. Donna Lee
3. Criss Cross