Steve Lacy Dies
Posted 6/4/2004

Steve Lacy, one of the greatest soprano saxophonists of all time, died Friday at New England Baptist Hospital. The jazz master who once defined his profession as "combination orator, singer, dancer, diplomat, poet, dialectician, mathematician, athlete, entertainer, educator, student, comedian, artist, seducer and general all around good fellow" was 69. He leaves his wife and collaborator, the Swiss singer Irene Aebi. 

Born Steven Lackritz in New York City on July 23, 1934, Lacy started his musical training at the piano as a youth. From there, it was an interest in clarinet, eventually leading to soprano saxophone. Having studied with Cecil Scott, Lacy went on to Schillinger School of Music (now Berklee School of Music) in 1953, the following year going to Manhattan School of Music.

Lacy started out being influenced by traditional jazz and was an exponent of it as a player for many years. His interest in the early jazz of New Orleans, Chicago and Kansas City was later supplanted by collaborationswith, among others, Cecil Taylor in the late 1950s. During this time he also worked with Jimmy Guiffre, Mal Waldron and Gil Evans, and became very interested in the music of Thelonious Monk. For 16 weeks in 1960, Lacy worked with Monk's quintet, following that up with his own quintet with Roswell Rudd, Denis Charles and different bassists playing a repertoire of mainly Monk compositions. Starting in 1965, Lacy performed more and more as an international artist with, among others, Kenny Drew, Enrico Rava, Karl Berger and Paul Motian. In 1967, he moved to Europe, having married Irene Aebi, who would become a member as a vocalist/cellist/violinist with Lacy.

Lacy moved to Paris in 1970, two years later starting to play solo saxophone concerts. Lacy's work has encompassed a variety of media and been performed in a number of settings, including schools, museums, churches, cultural centers, radio stations and for dancers. He has led a variety of ensembles and has played with top musicians from all over the world, among the artists being Evan Parker, Carla Bley and Derek Bailey. He is also an important composer, including writing settings for the works of poets. In the early 1980s, Lacy formed what would become his most stable group to date with few exceptions: with Aebi, Bobby Few, Steve Potts and Jean-Jacques Avenel.

In 2002 Lacy moved back to Boston, where he was a New England Conservatory faculty member.

Recordings include: Spirit Of Mingus (Freelance, 1991), More Monk (Soul Note, 1989), Anthem (Novus, 1989), Morning Joy (hat ART, 1986), Trickles (Black Saint, 1976), The Forest And The Zoo (ESP, 1966), Schooldays (hat ART, 1963), Reflections (OJC, 1958).


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