Thursday, April 23, 2009

Steve Lacy - Straws (Cramps, 1977; 1997)

Straws finds the magnificent late saxophonist Steve Lacy in a variety of semi-solo scenarios, each paying tribute to people and musicians dear to him. He opens with an homage to Art Tatum built around a theme from Vincent Youmans' "Get Happy" that quickly spirals as Lacy is often wont to do. There is but one more outright solo piece, loosely a ballad for his dear Irene. The remaining pieces find Lacy in interesting territory, a pair of sax-celeste duets and two pieces where Lacy plays along to prepared tape recordings. The celeste pieces are fascinating in the sonic space that the celeste leaves for Lacy's sax, this floating bed of sound that ties up the higher ranges. The first tape piece is culled from recordings of three clarinetists and two saxophonists testing reeds, the second Lacy hesitantly calls a "poème sonore", built from construction sounds and several layers of improvised saxophone. Unfortunately, these recordings come from the 1997 reissue of the album, and as such the piece "Feline" appears in a curiously truncated form that preserves the intertwined ascensions of sax and celeste but omit Lacy's solo.


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