This article is about the jazz musician. For the CEO of Meredith, see Steve Lacy (businessman).
Steve Lacy (July 23, 1934 – June 4, 2004), born Steven Norman Lackritz in New York City, was a jazz saxophonist and composer recognized as one of the important players of soprano saxophone.
Coming to prominence in the 1950s as a progressive Dixieland musician, Lacy went on to a long and prolific career. He worked extensively in experimental jazz and dabbled in free improvisation, but Lacy's music was typically melodic and tightly-structured.
Lacy began his career at sixteen playing Dixieland music with much older musicians such as Henry "Red" Allen, Pee Wee Russell, George "Pops" Foster and Zutty Singleton and then with Kansas City jazz players like Buck Clayton, Dicky Wells, and Jimmy Rushing. He then became involved with the avant-garde, performing on Jazz Advance (1956), the debut album of Cecil Taylor, and appearing with Taylor's groundbreaking quartet at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival; he also made a notable appearance on an early Gil Evans album. His most enduring relationship, however, was with the music of Thelonious Monk: he recorded the first album to feature only Monk compositions (Reflections, Prestige, 1958) and briefly played in Monk's band in 1960 and later on Monk's Big Band/Quartet album (Columbia, 1963).
Monk tunes became a permanent part of his repertoire, making an appearance in virtually every concert appearance and on albums, and Lacy often collaborated with trombonist Roswell Rudd in presenting interpretations of Monk's compositions.
Beyond Monk, he performed the work of jazz composers such as Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington and Herbie Nichols; unlike many jazz musicians he rarely played standard popular or show tunes. Lacy also became a highly distinctive composer with a signature simplicity of style: a Lacy composition is often built out of little more than a single questioning phrase, repeated several times. In the 1960s he continued to work with other players involved in the American free-jazz avant-garde and, in the 1970s, the European free improvisation scene, and free improvisation remained an important element in his work thereafter.
Lacy's first visit to Europe came in 1965, with a visit to Copenhagen in the company of Kenny Drew; he went to Italy and formed a quartet with Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava and the South African musicians Johnny Dyani and Louis Moholo (their visit to Buenos Aires is documented on The Forest and the Zoo, ESP, 1967). After a brief return in New York, he returned to Italy, then in 1970 moved to Paris, where he lived until the last two years of his life. He became a widely respected figure on the European jazz scene, though he remained less well-known in the U.S.
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