Saturday, February 11, 2017

Steve Lacy - Points

Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy is one of my major musical heroes. His improvising is passionate, but restrained and thoughtful, with no wasted gestures. He recorded prolifically; between his first recording session in 1954 and his death in 2004 he made scores of albums for many labels, large and small. Points, recorded in 1978 for the French Le Chant du Monde label, is one of the rarest and best records in his catalog. It's something of a concept album - the subject being the soprano saxophone itself. Lacy's longtime saxophone partner, Steve Potts, plays only soprano here (he was primarily an alto saxophonist), and the selections are carefully chosen to pay tribute to Lacy's instrument of choice, and to some its major practitioners.

The record starts with an astringent quartet arrangement (two soprano saxes, bass, and drums) of Duke Elllington's "The Mooche." This track is an homage to the "father" of the jazz soprano sax, Sidney Bechet; Lacy was inspired to take up the instrument after hearing Bechet's recording of "The Mooche." This is followed by an unaccompanied solo (a Lacy specialty) of "In a Sentimental Mood" in medley with "My Favorite Things." This medley is a tribute to Johnny Hodges and John Coltrane.

The rest of the pieces are Lacy compositions. "Stalks" is a trio, with Lacy accompanied by bass and drums (Kent Carter and Oliver Johnson). "Points," which takes up all of side two, is a three-part suite for the two soprano saxophones - the most soprano-oriented piece of them all.

One of the strengths of this album is its variety; no two pieces use the same instrumentation - a common Lacy gambit. The compositions are engaging and the playing is excellent, making this one of my favorite Steve Lacy albums.

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