Snips - reviews


[…] Like a master storyteller, Lacy animates his compositions with strong thematic material. Take the grand, almost classical construction of Pearl Street, for example, which seems to depict the lives of the street's inhabitants, or Hooky, whose narrative quality is so strong that it evokes images of Mark Twain's errant schoolboys, mischievous, and full of wonder. The New York Duck is a more strident bird than its European brethren, but not so emotionally reserved that it can't let loose with a good, Ayler-esque cry at one point. And anyone who fears that two hours of solo soprano sax is too daunting should check out the legendary, six-part opus Tao, which highlights Lacy's ability to swing melody, rhythm, and harmony with the force of an entire big band. […]

Larry Nai (eJazzNews, 16/04/2001) complete review

All About Jazz

[…] So you get Lacy in daring, dashing form, chanting "Don't go to school!" for Hooky and a Buddhist mantra for The 4 Edges. He shows his mastery of the horn - his conquest of the horn - in high-register passages throughout (see especially Coastline (Water), the third part of The 4 Edges). He displays a tenderness and lyricism that are utterly original - they don't make even the slightest gesture to standard balladry or to any other standard "melodic" motifs. (See, for example, Pearl Street.) He experiments with form, as on Deadline (Earth), the fourth of The 4 Edges, a piece which consists of a motif that's repeated faster and faster until it launches the performer into open space.

The solo soprano saxophone, when played by Steve Lacy, is a musical universe unto itself. The places Lacy goes on these two discs would fill a travelogue. And every inch of the ride is magnificent, involving music.

Robert Spencer (All About Jazz, 04/2001) complete review

PopMatters Music

[…] In Lacy's case this type of performance situation [solo improvised saxophone] is made even more demanding by the fact that he does not really anchor his improvisations in melody or anything close to regular changes. Rather, he tends to set out fairly elemental musical ideas bit by bit, playing a passage over and over with slight variation until the idea has exhausted itself and he can move on. While Lacy's approach may strike listeners as being naïve at times, his thoroughness shows him to be very deliberate and very sophisticated, as if he is working out a whole new vocabulary piece by piece. At the same time though, his approach seems very much rooted in the situation, in the creative spark of the moment. I would imagine that sitting in the Environ loft in 1976 in New York, the site of this recording, would have been quite exciting, and not just because it was Lacy's first solo show in the U.S., but because he displays such an obvious commitment to exploring new sounds. […]

Andrew Johnson (PopMatters Music Critic - 12 February 2001) complete review


Au printemps 1976 (une année de merveilleux enregistrements, dont Trickles avec Rudd et Clangs avec Centazzo, qui vient juste de ressortir sur New Tone mais sans la splendide pochette du LP… ce dernier n’est pas à confondre avec le CD du même nom réalisé avec un double sextet en 1992 pour hat ART, CD 6116), Steve Lacy donna plusieurs solos sur le continent américain ; ces deux publications (d’inédits pour la plupart), qui sont donc les premiers solos américains de S. L. gravés, en témoignent brillamment et différemment : l’intime répertoire lacyen s’y déploie dans l’ambiance bruyante d’un loft new-yorkais puis dans une église montréalaise (comparez donc les volatiles du New York Duck et du New Duck de Montréal). Les deux programmes sont assez comparables mais apportent leur lot de bonnes surprises : Pearl Street (un thème que le grand Lazro a repris sur disque) est une libre évocation des années 50 ; Hooky, comme No Baby et Underline, est lancé par une formule vocale lapidaire : "Don’t go to school !" ; clôturant les deux concerts, Revolutionary Suicide est un portrait sonnant du panther Huey Newton. L’inépuisable cycle Tao est donné intégralement dans les deux disques (un nouvel état d’avancement de cette suite sera dressé, en solitaire, dans le disque intitulé Remains (hat ART CD 6102, 1991) – un des cinq ou dix plus beaux disques de Lacy –) ; les 4 Edges (Outline, Underline, Coastline, Deadline) repris par le sextet en 1981 (in Ballets, _ hat ART LP 1982/83) et dont le dernier volet est aujourd’hui encore joué par Lacy, n’apparaissent que dans le concert new-yorkais. Les deux galettes de Snips restituent, avec leur son brut (tailladé par les ciseaux que le sopraniste manipule dans le thème éponyme), une performance qui emballera les amateurs du Lacy le plus grenu et fouailleur ; Hooky est plus recueilli et bénéficie d’une très belle acoustique. Deux pans capitaux de la carte d’un monde déjà constellé de cellules ciselées dont la limpidité et l’ordonnancement éclateront aussi en 77 avec Clinkers (solo tout récemment réédité, _ HatOLOGY 546). Avec le solo de 1972 en Avignon (Emanem 4004), les tout meilleurs lives des seventies de Steve seul en scène ! Le jeu de références internes éveille des échos et renforce la cohérence de cet univers en cours de "polissage monkien" : structures liminaires et répétitions cinétiques. […]

Guillaume Tarche (Improjazz 71 - 01/2001)

Nashville Scene

Steve Lacy and Anthony Braxton are among a select handful of jazz saxophonists willing to record and perform in a solo setting. […] Though legendary jazz figures Sidney Bechet and Coleman Hawkins occasionally did solo sax dates, even adventurous mavericks like Ornette Coleman have avoided recording sans accompaniment.

But Lacy and Braxton have long been unorthodox players whose techniques, ideals, and personalities make them equally effective working alone or leading combos. […] They are improvisers in the purest sense; nothing they do is predictable, and they've made some of the most uncommercial records in history, even by jazz standards. […]

Lacy made the switch from traditional jazz to the avant garde over 35 years ago, abandoning his original instrument, the clarinet, to master the soprano sax. His 1957 LP Soprano Saxophone predated Coltrane's My Favorite Things and sparked renewed interest in an instrument that had virtually been forgotten by jazz musicians. For a time, Lacy performed bop material, but he declared his stylistic independence in 1965. His work has gotten noticeably freer over the years, whether he's playing alongside comrades like Roswell Rudd and Cecil Taylor or heading units featuring the eerie vocals of his spouse Irene Aebi.

Snips, a two-CD set originally recorded at the Environ loft in New York on May 16, 1976, has significant historical importance because it was one of several great "loft jazz" dates. The mid-'70s loft scene spotlighted several dynamic, outstanding players who were ignored by major labels and instead connected with audiences by hosting concerts and recording sessions in large Manhattan loft spaces. The trend only lasted a few years and was a footnote by the mid-'80s, but lately there's been renewed interest in this music, and Lacy's date certainly ranks among the high points.

During this period, Lacy had just returned from one of his lengthy European stays--he currently lives in France--and was making superb, if poorly distributed records for such labels as Black Saint, Axieme, Improvising Artists, and Adelphi. All the songs on Snips are Lacy compositions showcasing varying aspects of his approach. Hooky is a wild number with squeaks, bleats, and phrases spewed forth in a dazzling, percussive manner. The New York Duck presents bizarre verbal quips punctuated by splintering soprano lines, while the six-part Tao moves from solemn statements to piercing screams, back to honks, and then into mournful, edgy moments; Lacy's pauses, upper-register jumps, and screeches become more vivid as the song concludes. There are moments on the disc when Lacy blows air back through his sax's mouthpiece to create an unusual sonic effect, while at other times he provides somber lines, playing with a lyricism that demonstrates he's as effective at soft melodies as he is at discordant passages.

Lacy frequently seems to turn the soprano inside out, sometimes playing so high he almost shatters hearing, then going so low it seems impossible he can stay in tune. He utilizes every trick from distortion to repetition on Snips ; the total Steve Lacy package is admirably displayed throughout. It's disturbing, brilliant, amusing, and amazing. […]

Ron Wynn (Nashville Scene - October 12, 2000) complete review


Snips was recorded at Steve Lacy's first U.S. solo soprano saxophone concert, which took place in May, 1976 at artist John Fischer's loft, Environ. Steve Lacy may not have been the first to perform a solo saxophone concert, but he's been one of the leading practitioners of the form. Lacy's first solo soprano saxophone recording was Lapis (Saravah), a studio recording from 1971. (Anthony Braxton recorded the first solo sax album, For Alto, in 1969.) […]

The 2-CD Snips is the first release of the new Jazz Magnet label. When Snips was recorded in 1976, many jazz musicians in New York were finding alternative non-commercial spaces to perform in: quite often in lofts that were also the living spaces of artists and musicians. […]

Steve Lacy's 87-minute performance consists of two suites (The 4 Edges and Tao) and five stand-alone pieces. The freeish Hooky seems like a song of the times, with the anti-establishment line "don't go to school." The tune includes a short Monk quote. (I'm not sure you can have a true Lacy performance without some reference to Monk.)

New York Duck is part of Lacy's series of humorous "duck" tunes. Playing a staccato melody, Lacy is concerned with exploring the sounds of the soprano, making various growling, barking and quacking noises through vocalizations, overblowing and multiphonics. (I wonder if John Zorn was listening?)

The title tune Snips gets its name from a pair of scissors that Lacy snips rhythmically before he starts playing. Early performance art? […]

The recording quality of the performance is that of a good, non-professional recording, marred by occasional mike clicks or audience sounds, and includes two photos of Lacy playing at the concert. I'm glad that Jazz Magnet has made this recording available.

Alan Lankin (Jazzmatazz, 15/10/2000) complete review

All About Jazz

[…] Snips is not a recording for the casual listener. One must pay attention and get involved in the music to fully appreciate it. Lacy’s focus on visual and conceptual cues frequently reflects itself in the music. Occasional vocal snippets supply a strange counterpoint to his saxophone utterances (my favorite example of his voice inserts, from Hooky, is the repeated outburst “Don’t go to school!”). Even the closing track pursues its bold, intense direction by gradual evolution of a simple theme. Nothing obvious here, but plenty to absorb if you’re willing to make the effort. And for Lacy fans, this historical landmark is a must-listen.

Nils Jacobson (All About Jazz, 09/2000) complete review

All About Jazz

In the admittedly narrow annals of solo saxophone music Steve Lacy has managed to set standards of prolificacy unmatched by any of his illustrious peers. Even Evan Parker, who is regaled far and wide as the master of the idiom has failed to even come close to Lacy’s numbers when it comes to recordings. Here then is another set of solo improvisations and compositions by the reigning maestro of the straight horn. Is it essential? That would be dependant upon whom you ask. Is it an enjoyable and historically important addition to Lacy’s already overflowing discography? The answer after listening has to be an emphatic yes.

Recorded on Lacy’s 1976 North American tour, this date surprisingly marked his first solo concert in the United States. After playing dates in Canada (several of which are documented on the recent Emanem release Hooky) Lacy touched down in New York and played a gig at a local loft, the results of which are presented here for the first time. […]

Derek Taylor (All About Jazz, 09/2000) complete review