Maria Friedlander: Did Ornette affect you?

 Steve Lacy: Oh yeah, profoundly. And not only me, but everybody. He came in and blew New York away. He divided and polarized the scene so that either you were for it or against it. Of course, I was for it from the beginning. Even before I heard him live, I heard the record. And I loved it because it was vocal. It was language. It was spoken as if he was speaking the saxophone. It was so free, it was just like speech. That set up something for me-I realized a kind of freedom. He said that if you have something you want to say, just put it in. Don't worry about the bars or any of that stuff.

 I got to be very good friends with Don Cherry and with Billy Higgins and Charlie Haden and a little bit with Ornette, too. And this was very important. It had a big influence on me. I played with Ornette in the free jazz thing. After the record that Ornette made, Free Jazz with the double quartet, somebody asked him to do it live. Dolphy was either dead or not available, so I took Dolphy's place in the double quartet.


Steve Lacy © Lee Friedlander
 It was Bobby Bradford on trumpet and Don Cherry and Blackwell, Art Davis on bass and Scotty LaFaro. It was a very exciting prospect for music and it worked very well. The gig was in Cincinnati. There were eight of us, a double quartet, and we got to the theater where we were supposed to perform. The marquis was marked "Ornette Coleman- Free Jazz" and there was a line around the block of people waiting to get in. But they didn't want to pay. "Free Jazz." People were saying, "It's free. What do you mean? We have to pay for this?" People refused to pay because it was marked "Free Jazz." And so we didn't play. We couldn't get paid and we didn't play. We got back on our plane and went back to New York.