Five Facings

Steve Lacy plus...

Five Facings

Recorded in 1996

Steve Lacy soprano saxophone, plus:

Marylin Crispell piano (1, 2) Misha Mengelberg piano (3, 4, 5) Ulrich Gumpert piano (6) Fred Van Hove piano (7) Vladimir Miller piano (8)

Ind. Title Composer Dur.
1/ The Crust Steve Lacy 6:17
2/ Blues For Aïda 7:50
3/ Off Minor Thelonious Monk 7:01
4/ Ruby My Dear 9:53
5/ Evidence 6:22
6/ Art Steve Lacy 11:53
7/ Twenty One * Steve Lacy, Fred van Hove 20:22
8/ The Wane Steve Lacy 7:35

* is an improvisation.

Recorded live on April 1996 during the "Workshop Freie Musik '96" at the "Akademie der Künste" in Berlin [(6) on April 4, (3, 4, 5) on April 5, (8) on April 6, (1, 2) on April 7 and (7) on April 8]. Engineers: Holger Scheuermann & Jost Gebers.

Producers: Steve Lacy & Jost Gebers.

Cover: artwork by Alain Kirili ("Solo", 1995). Photo by Dagmar Gebers. Cover art: Jost Gebers.


En avril 1986, Steve Lacy est invité au "Workshop Freie Musik" de Berlin, à se produire cinq jours de suite avec un pianiste différent. Cinq duos, cinq occasions pour Lacy d'approfondir cet art de la conversation qu'il a porté au plus haut. Trois matériaux possibles : compositions de Lacy, de Monk ou improvisation sans composition préalable. Deux attitudes : répétition l'après midi (pour apprivoiser le hasard) ou dans le cas de vieux compagnons de route (Van Hove et Mengelberg) concert sans préalable comme on se jette à l'eau.

Ouverture judicieuse avec la conversation lumineuse (logique et intuition implacables) de Marilyn Crispell. Coutumière de ce type d'exercice de haute voltige avec Anthony Braxton. Puis Misha Mengelberg et les trois Monk, qu'il joue avec ce zeste de désinvolture lunaire qui sied idéalement à l'ailleurs monkien. Ulrich Gumpert, s'avère étonnamment "classique", presque héritier de McCoy Tyner dans un splendide Art. Avec Fred Van Hove, vingt minutes d'improvisation échevelée, de dissonances partagées et de complicité exhumée. Peut-être moins familier, Vladimir Miller se contente d'accompagner, très subtilement d'ailleurs, les volutes de Steve Lacy.

Car évidemment c'est pour son art consommé de l'exigence, sur un instrument difficile, cette façon de capturer la beauté en feignant de l'ignorer, cette perfection dans le pétrissage de la matière sonore, où chaque note est infléchie, colorée, hérissée ou affinée, que Steve Lacy livre là - à nouveau ! - un disque fort. Très fort.

Alex Dutilh (Jazzman 25, mai 1997)

Liner Notes

In his own musical history Lacy has played through the whole century of Jazz. "Five Facings" is, in my opinion, the first CD (apart from the double CD "Findings", which was edited together from a variety of sources and conceived by Lacy to be the accompanying CD to his saxophone school), where all the possibilities Lacy has developed on soprano are to be heard, perfect in every respect.

With the dry charm, the accuracy and the precision of a tax inspector Lacy succeeds in expressing great feeling within all these possibilities.
 Blues for Aïda with Marilyn Crispell is an excellent example for what is basically a simple, naive melodic line, which, through its interpretation gains a lucidity, gentle intensity and existentialist absoluteness as if it was travelling through a wonderland. Crispell underpins this Lacy-tude with heart-rending economy: After hours, and no question about it, the Blues as a universal anthropological experience.
Mengelberg, Lacy (photo Dagmar Gebers)

The pieces with Mengelberg are sheer MasterpieceSteve Lacy, who, for a while, had more Monk-titles (54 to be precise) in his repertoire than Monk himself (about 30) meets THE congenial partner. The result is the essence of interpretation.

Wit, melancholy, refinement and genius demonstrate the continuing validity of the 'Monk system'. Lacy and Mengelberg prove to us in a burslesque dizziness of two converging roller-coasters, that life can be a pleasure even on a Beckett-level of perception.

In the first bars of Art Gumpert reflects Lacy's fascinating rationality through the semblance of an even more European piercing accuracy. His improvisation, however, develops Tyner-like modal shifts, his sliding arpeggios turn into a beautifully opulent impressionistic sound painting.

Here Lacy's minimalism is confronted with the acoustic covering of a horn of plenty, which is reminiscent of the forceful dynamics of the classic Coltrane-Quartet.

With Van Hove, Lacy extemporises the possibilities of so-called free improvisation. Both musicians reach into the multi coloured palette of their own typical extensions of the given technical limitations of their instrumentSteve Lacy produces his abstract, at times onomatopoetic sounds, he overblows, he sucks at the reed and uses the noise spectrum of his playing in such a structuralist manner so plausibly revealed on "Five Facings". Van Hove constructs a constantly opening, breathing and muted 'Cluster-Bauhaus' using his perfect pedal technique.

Lacy's clarity becomes even more distinctive through Van Hove's suggestions of energy. Van Hove lays down a complex web of melodic fragments and block chords, which, in dialogue with Lacy, principally develops a kind of rhythmic permanence. This creates the impression of a transparent maze.

Thus Twenty One also reflects the misunderstandings in the discussion about free improvised music. Both musicians can move with such freedom, because their partner always seems to know where they are going to and is playing with this in mind. Lacy and Van Hove are moving on a Meta-level and it seems to me, that only through the kind of the music presented here (and maybe in great moments of basketball) a perceiver can experience this Meta-level as possibility.

 The Wane, the piece with Vladimir Miller operates on a more down-to-earth level. Miller concentrates mainly on accompanying Lacy. In memory of Johnny Hodges, Lacy glides through his melodies using endless strange - "lndian" - type glissandi like the "Silver Surfer".

Particularly in this piece, which gives Lacy a relatively conventional basis, the 'avant-gardist' plays through the whole history of his instrument, of his music. Dig it!

Markus Müller (excerpt from liner notes)