The Straight Horn of Steve Lacy

Recorded in 1960

Steve Lacy soprano saxophone Charles Davis baritone saxophone John Ore bass Roy Haynes drums

Ind. Title Composer Dur.
1/ Louise Cecil Taylor 5:16
2/ Introspection Thelonious Monk 5:20
3/ Donna Lee Miles Davis 7:41
4/ Played Twice Thelonious Monk 5:44
5/ Air Cecil Taylor 6:27
6/ Criss Cross Thelonious Monk 5:37

Recorded at Nola Penthouse Sound Studios, New York City (USA), on November 19, 1960. Engineer: Bob d'Orléans. Supervision: Nat Hentoff.

- on the records, Donna Lee is attributed wrongly to Charlie Parker.
- the cassette does not include (1) nor (4).

Liner Notes

The soprano saxophone is like a fractious but increasingly alluring mistress - challenging and unpredictable, but capable of unique satisfactions. Because of the difficulty involved in mastering its problems of pitch, very few jazzmen have concentrated on the instrument. Until the past few years, the two major tamers of the soprano were Sidney Bechet and Johnny Hodges. Bechet also doubled on clarinet, and the soprano was never more than a secondary instrument for Hodges. In modern jazz, John Coltrane and Steve Lacy have wrestled with the instrument, but only Lacy has devoted all of his time to the soprano.

In an article, My Favorite Thing, in Metronome, Lacy has explained the fascination of the soprano: "This instrument can fulfill an extremely valuable function in today's jazz. Like all saxophones, its range, with practice, can be increased beyond the normal limits to four full octaves. It is the only treble instrument able to be played percussively enough and with enough power and brilliance to fit into the stylistic demands of contemporary jazz. The lowest part of the soprano's range, which is right in the heart of the tenor saxophone range and quite similar to it in sound, can be played with extreme intensity. If the range of the horn is extended upwards to its extreme limit, the top notes are remarkable like those which Cat Anderson can produce. Between those two extremes, a great diversity of colors is available, thereby making this instrument potentially one of extreme expressive power." More than in any of his previous sessions, Steve Lacy demonstrated on this date how penetratingly expressive the soprano saxophone can indeed be. For an analysis of this album in the context of Lacy's career, I asked Martin Williams to supply the following observations.

Nat Hentoff