Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Monday, December 19, 2011

Steve Lacy Re-Imagined

Steve Lacy was probably one the most prolific and idiosyncratic composers in jazz. He has made over 200 recordings with numerous ensemble configurations from large chamber groups, with and without text; to solo saxophone, with and without text.

One of my favorites is “Bone.” I first heard Lacy play this piece solo on his CD, Snips:Live at Environ. It was part of a eight-part suite called the “Tao Suite.”

It’s pretty common knowledge that Lacy was heavily influenced by Monk, but on this piece it’s pretty apparent, to me, anyway. If you were to compare “Bone” to the first two bars of Thelonious Monk’s composition “Thelonious,” you can definitely hear the similarities and influence. Of course, for the bridge, they each travel their own unique paths.

Lacy was also the consummate minimalist, as a composer and improviser—a few notes, a few chords, and lots of possibilities. Which is why his tunes are ideal for re-imagining. Especially for me, since I’m into always having the melody present--whether it’s playing it as a motif during my solo, or using it as an interlude.

My initial arrangement of this tune was for a gig with Dave Liebman, with two sopranos, bass and drums. However, in this video clip of my concert at Smalls Jazz Club with Ethan Iverson on piano, Gregg August on bass, and EJ Strickland on drums, I had the piano play the 2nd soprano part.

I’m looking forward to exploring more of Lacy’s stuff in the future.

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