Wednesday, May 21, 2014

STEVE LACY FIVE – The Way (1979) - 2CD-2004

Label: hatOLOGY – hatOLOGY 2-604
Format: 2 × CD, Album, Reissue, Limited Edition
Country: Switzerland - Released: 2004
Style: Free Improvisation, Free Jazz
Recorded live on 23 January 1979, at Stadttheater Basel, Switzerland
Design [Graphic Concept] – fuhrer vienna
Liner Notes – John Corbett
Mastered By – Peter Pfister
Photography By [Cover Photo] – Thomas Wunsch
Producer – Werner X. Uehlinger

This double-CD reissues the nine numbers from a former double LP, adding three previously unreleased tunes from the same Switzerland concert. The Steve Lacy Five is at its best on scalar-based instrumentals such as the near-classic "Blinks." The many strong solos by Lacy and the highly underrated altoist Potts makes this two-fer of interest for followers of advanced jazz. This was always a well-organized and highly original group.

1-01  Stamps . . . 5:46
1-02  Blinks . . . 10:45
1-03  Troubles . . . 9:59
1-04  Raps . . . 11:31
1-05  Dreams . . . 9:17

2-01  Existence . . . 8:40
2-02  The Way . . . 8:30
2-03  Bone . . . 8:50
2-04  Name . . . 12:57
2-05  The Breath . . . 12:00
2-06  Life On Its Way . . . 11:05
2-07  Swiss Duck . . . 5:53

STEVE LACY – Soprano Saxophone
STEVE POTTS – Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone
IRENE AEBI – Cello, Violin, Voice
KENT CARTER – Double Bass
OLIVER JOHNSON – Drums, Percussion

The great Steve Lacy, recently departed, made many records, but this one captures a great ensemble at the peak of its creative powers. It's a two-CD set from one concert in Basel in 1979, and it's hard to believe that so much great music was played in one sitting.

"Stamps has Lacy's signature angular, repeated (almost minimalist, à la Terry Riley or Steve Reich) phrases that function in the role of the traditional jazz head. Drummer Oliver Johnson plays through the repeated motives with waves of drums and cymbals that subsequently provide a bridge into improvisations that start over an A and D drone. They are both sensitive and bold, modern yet linked to an ancient inner human voice. The band falls back into the repeated motives naturally, ends, and after a very brief pause launches into "Blinks. Here Kent Carter's perfectly calibrated bass playing propels altoist Steve Potts through a gratifying solo. Then Lacy himself takes center stage and delivers a solo with sophisticated lines, growling effects, and minimalist motives building to a roar and then subsiding to a whisper, dovetailing perfectly into Irene Aebi's cello solo.

In "Troubles, we get the rare treat of hearing Steve Lacy's singing voice. Irene Aebi plays the role of the "straight voice against Lacy, who purposely alters each melodic phrase while they both sing the same words. Johnson and Carter provide a broad swing beat for intense, swirling improvisations. "Dreams sets up an impressionistic soundscape, complete with sensitive sound effects. Brion Gysin's words end the piece in a touching, concise way.

Disc two is where the suite "The Way begins. The music, inspired by the text to the "Tao Te Ching, is incredible. "Existence becomes a swinging, chromatically rising bass figure that never fails in energy or inspiration. Irene Aebi may have her detractors, but her vocal performances throughout the suite are really powerful. Indeed, the entire band is incredibly focused and we get to hear more nuance and depth from everyone in a way that we don't experience on the first CD. "Bone starts with a kind of cartoon conga-line rhythm. Again the collective improvisation is breathtaking, but always with the overview of the form in mind.

The final section of the suite, "Life On Its Way, starts with a very sensitive drum solo that segues into the two soprano saxophones playing "off stage and the violin evoking the Chinese erhu. "Life On it's Way draws the listener in as perhaps the most dramatic and narrative piece of the suite, and it ends with what seems like appropriate thoughtfulness. The audience reaction swells, almost as if people quickly realized the incredible journey the suite took them on, and the rhythmic clapping brings on "Swiss Duck, the encore.

The last vocal line from this version of "Bone is "...vitality clings to the marrow, leaving death behind. Lacy's music lives on, leaving death behind. The Way is an easy contender for best reissue of 2005.

_ By FRANCIS LO KEE, June 16, 2005 (AAJ)

If you find it, buy this album!


  1. STEVE LACY FIVE – The Way (1979) - 2CD-2004

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  2. Oh what a marvelous period in Lacy's output. Thank you, Vitko!

  3. Right. Another would add that this is an amazing show with so much energy concentrated on every minute gig, no fluctuations in quality, no worse moments mood, fantastic, see, there is almost two hours of music. Great.

  4. One of twenty best albums of my collection, all genres, all periods. Ecstatic. This was my first purchase on HatHut (vinyl, I had to get it from mail order from the late, lamented New Music Distribution Service [founded by Carla Bley]). Fond memories!

  5. This looks really awesome Vitko. Thanks for this listen. Scraps, your recommendation carries weight given what I have learned of your taste here and elsewhere. Thanks so much to all.

  6. Amazing! it just makes me wonder why i have until very recently overlooked Steve Lacy. Thank you very much Vitko.

  7. Vitko i am sorry once more but i am going to ask another re post,....this amazing album.....can you do it when you have the time ?.....
    Big THX !....

  8. vitko i would also like to request a re up of this post
    pretty please

  9. Hi Vitko, could you please re upload this? i would be very grateful. thank you in advance.javi