Steve Lacy: No Baby
Steve Lacy (soprano sax)
Raps (Adelphi 5004)
Composed by Steve Lacy.
Recorded: New York, January 29, 1977
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
Like many an American jazz musician before (and after) him, Steve Lacy found Europe to be a more agreeable place to ply his trade. He moved there to stay in 1965; he would not live in the U.S. again for many years. He did pay the occasional visit, however. “No Baby” comes from the 1977 album Raps, which was recorded in the immediate aftermath of a week-long series of performances at Ali’s Alley in New York.
One of the wittier items in his discography, “No Baby” begins with drummer Oliver Johnson verbally intoning the title over and over, as if scolding an errant toddler on the verge of committing some childish misdemeanor. The chant morphs into the simple three-against-four motive (played by the twin sopranos) which makes up the tune. Potts takes the first solo. He sounds a great deal like Lacy—working against the pulse rather than riding on top of it, cleanly articulating his deceptively simple melodic ideas—yet you realize he’s not, the instant Lacy’s distinctive, astringent tone enters the fray. The saxophonists make a terrific team, rather like an old married couple completing each other’s sentences. Johnson plays hard and loud. One can imagine in a live setting he might be overbearing, but with the sax and bass volume essentially normalized by the recording process, his contribution is actually quite exciting. In later years, Lacy would employ more conventional drummers than Johnson, but none had the capacity to generate more intensity. This is visceral stuff, demonstrating that Lacy’s inspiration never flagged, even in a high-energy context.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey