Steve Lacy Remembered


Evan Parker + Steve Lacy, 1985
Evan Parker + Steve Lacy, 1985                                                                               Caroline Forbes©2008

Evan Parker: - form to lend, pulsed life create –

In the summers of 1962 and 1963, I was in New York, courtesy of my father’s long service with BOAC – free tickets, just seven shillings and sixpence airport tax to pay. I think it was in 1963 that I heard the Lacy/Rudd School Days band. They were playing at a coffee shop in the West Village called Phase Two.  I no longer remember who the bass player and drummer were for that particular night.  I remember being very impressed by Roswell’s warm-up, glissing through the overtone series on fixed slide positions.

At the end of the first set Steve made an announcement, “We’d like to remind you that the band plays request”… a pause of just the right length, then “We’ll play any tune by Thelonious Monk.”  During the break I wracked my brain for the hardest Monk tune I could think of and as Steve walked past to start the second set, I asked him could they play “Four in One. “ He said “Sure” and they did, memorably.

The last time I saw Steve was in Guelph a few months before he died.  He knew that the last surgical procedure open to him was risky and quite a long shot and while hopeful was already incorporating the theme of Death into his solo performance – a new theme to be worked with to the end. 

Steve Potts: In the almost 25 years that I was closely involved with Steve (both musically and intellectually), there are so many remembrances that I could write a nice sized book!

Steve’s generosity, musically, materially, intellectually and educationally largely influenced my adult life and does so to this day, plus we had a hell of a lot of fun along the way!

I know this is not the place to write that book so I’ll just relate the story of the last time we recorded together to show how close we were.

After the split-up of the Lacy Sextet, Steve was based in Berlin and we only  saw each other spasmodically over a period of a couple of years but one night after Steve had returned to Paris, I came home off the road from a tour with my band and had a message from the drummer Sangoma Everett asking me to participate in the recording of a movie soundtrack that very night and whether could I show up.

I was tired from the road trip and called the studio to tell Sangoma that I would not make it, but he told me that Steve was participating also, so I could not refuse.

When I arrived at the studio, we greeted each other warmly and started to cut the tracks for the film when on one of the themes, which was composed for two sopranos and rhythm. We were stopped because the engineer said one of our microphones was not functioning.

After a change of mics, we started again but the same thing happened.

Finally Steve asked the engineer to play back the tracks, but to play one soprano at a time, and sure enough, there were the two distinct sounds of both our horns. After so many years of playing together and a couple of years of not playing together, we could still phrase and play so closely that even the sophisticated recording equipment could not distinguish that there was two horn being played, not one! But, we were one, not two!

Enrico Rava: I just like to tell you how it started. Gato Barbieri’s quintet broke up and  Gato went to Paris with Don Cherry and later to NYC. I felt kind of abandoned and didn’t know what to do. It was 1965 and Steve was in Italy with his trio (Aldo Romano and Kent Carter). They were struggling – no gigs, no oney etc. I had a connection with a club in Torino (my home town) and proposed Lacy to play in that club with the trio and have me as a guest. Steve wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea. He didn’t know me well enough, but he needed the job and accepted. We had a short rehearsal in the afternoon and then, at night we played. The music was mainly Monk and Carla Bley tunes. I remember I had some difficulties in playing “Work” and “Brilliant Corners”, both by Monk and not easy at all. I remember a beautiful Carla’s tune named “And Now The Queen”. At the end of the night Steve asked me to join the band. So the trio became a quartet.  We kept playing Monk’s and Carla’s tunes, but in the improvisations we didn’t respect the chords nor the form. After the themes we played completely free, maybe just keeping some vague reference to the mood of the tunes. So one day I said to Steve, “Why don’t we stop playing the heads, since anyway we don’t really play the tunes. I think we should just start improvising without any theme.” That night we did that and it was great. And from then on that was the characteristic of our quartet: total improvisation, and that’s how we did our two records: Sortie – probably out of catalogue and impossible to find – and The Forest and the Zoo on ESP, recorded in Buenos Aires in 1966.

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