Steve Lacy: Stamps




Steve Lacy (soprano sax)


Raps (Adelphi 5004)


Steve Lacy (soprano sax), Steve Potts (alto sax), Ron Miller (bass), Oliver Johnson (drums).

Composed by Steve Lacy


Recorded: New York, January 29, 1977


Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

According to John Swenson’s liner notes, Raps “documents Lacy’s first real acceptance here in the U.S. since his 1965 exile … (to) Italy, and later Paris.” The expatriate Lacy was in New York for a week of performances at drummer Rashied Ali’s Downtown loft performance space, Ali’s Alley. Lacy & Co. went into the studio to record the album at week’s end. For this quartet date, Lacy was joined by two members of his Paris-based sextet—saxophonist Steve Potts and drummer Oliver Johnson—and bassist Ron Miller, who had (according to Swenson) worked with him occasionally in Europe.

“Stamps” is the album’s lead track. The minor-key tune is characteristic of Lacy’s compositional style: motives of varying length repeated several times by the horns—sometimes in unison, sometimes harmonized; each set of repetitions constitutes a section, and the sections are arranged together to create a clearly defined form. It’s a simple yet very effective manner of composition—a distillation of techniques drawn not only from jazz (Monk, in particular) but also classical music. Following the theme statement, the saxophones improvise in tandem, exchanging terse bits of information, weaving an ornate sonic latticework over the free-time tumult generated by the rhythm section. Rawer than Lacy’s later work but nevertheless well-organized, “Stamps” in retrospect seems a harbinger of the refinement the saxophonist’s work was to undergo in the ‘80s.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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