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Wednesday, Mar 24 1999
Steve Lacy
The clarity and integrity of saxophonist Steve Lacy's vision as a jazz composer/improviser have inspired fans and musicians alike for more than four decades. Eminent Bay Area reedmen Larry Ochs, Dan Plonsey, and Ben Goldberg explain why:

"What can I say?" says Ochs. "He's one of the great living jazz musicians. He's the master on the soprano saxophone. He's one of the people who woke me up to ... all kinds of possibilities that I didn't know existed before, in terms of his playing and in the interaction of the people in his group. ... When you go to see him, you're hearing more than just the music; you're hearing a philosophy, a lifestyle, all this art that he's into. It just all comes out."

"If I close my eyes and listen to his solo music," says Plonsey, "I see pen and ink drawings. Everything goes from A to B to C to D. Incredible focus. He doesn't pick the pen up. It's like maybe a Japanese drawing in which it's just one, long, squiggly line down a long, thin strip of paper. ... From [another] point of view, his music is this incredible distillation of one or two ideas from [Thelonious] Monk. ... But I don't hear him as being derivative. ... He brings out the Mondrian quality of Monk and you can hear it structurally in this very articulated music."

"He's remarkably clear-minded about issues that are obscure to most of us," says Goldberg. "He's walked into uncharted territory with his eyes wide open. And the music reflects that. It's perfectly logical and stunningly obvious, yet it's complete magic."

As he's lived in Paris since 1970, Lacy's appearances in the Bay Area have been too few and far between. This weekend's performances will feature the saxophonist's trio, with bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch, and solo works (at the Sweat Shop's farewell creative-music showcase).

-- Sam Prestianni

The Steve Lacy Trio appears Saturday, March 27, at 8 p.m. at St. John's Presbyterian Church, 2727 College (between Ashby and Dwight) in Berkeley. Tickets are $15-17; call 454-5238. Lacy performs solo in a double bill with What We Live on Sunday, March 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sweat Shop, 1943 Mission (between 15th and 16th streets), S.F. Tickets are $13; call 487-1903.

About The Author

Sam Prestianni


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