Monday, September 11, 2017

Straight Horning: Steve Lacy - Free for a Minute

Steve Lacy - Free for a Minute (Emanem)

First up, many thanks to one of my readers for giving me the heads-up on this new release. The 2-disc set contains re-issues of the albums Disposability (trio with Kent Carter & Aldo Ramano) and Sortie (with Enrico Rava added to the trio), and two previously unissued sessions including the soundtrack for the (unreleased) film Free Fall and an early quintet recording. Free for a Minute documents a fascinating period in Lacy’s career as he moved from playing tunes into free improvisation, looser forms, and his own compositions.

Disposability (1965) is as an extension of his work from the 50s and 60s and contains pieces by Thelonious Monk, Carla Bley, Cecil Taylor. It’s also the beginning of this transitional period, featuring the earliest works written by Lacy to date (“Barble,” “M’s Transport” and “Chary”) and a free improvisation (“There We Were”). It makes for a nice combination of the familiar and charting new territory. 

From a quick peek at Lacy’s discography Sortie (1966) appears to be the first album featuring his own compositions exclusively, or are they? The reissue liner notes state that they may in fact be excerpts from longer free improvisations (and the original notes refer to them as free improvisations too). It’s still early days, and perhaps some closer listening could bring forms/composed material to light, but I’m leaning towards the free improvisation line of thinking (and if it is, Sortie pre-dates The Forest and The Zoo). Either way, I like the blend and rapport he has with Rava on this searching set. 

I hadn’t heard Paul Motian and Lacy together so Free Fall (1967) grabbed my attention. Comprised of 13 short improvisations that Lacy assigned certain limitations, Free Fall is at the quieter end of the spectrum and perhaps is more varied than some of the other free improvisations on the two discs. It’s rare to hear the entire quintet (Lacy, Rava, Karl Berger (vibes/piano) Carter & Motian) playing at once, and when they do it's less dense than on Sortie.

The high energy blowing on The Rush and The Thing (1972) features an early incarnation of what became one of his main working groups - the quintet with Steve Potts, Irene Aebie, Kent Carter, and Noel McGhie (it was a few years before Oliver Johnson took over the drum stool). “The Rush,” as its name suggests is surging, intense, and full-throttle blowing. “The Thing” begins less dense but is still abstract and lively as it builds into frenzy. The second part has clearer movements with sections for duos, solos, quiet movements, and collective improvisation.

Emanem have put together another really strong package. They have released some nice stuff lately... eventually I will get to writing a little about Cycles - another Lacy 2CD set they released this year (or was it 2016?), and there's more SME too. But for now, if you are a Lacy fan Free For a Minute is a fascinating listen. 

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