THIS 2CD SET CAPTURES THE SOPRANO SAXOPHONIST'S FIRST SOLO CONCERT EVER IN AMERICA, RECORDED IN 1976 AT THE LOFT JAZZ SPACE 'ENVIRON', ONE OF THE LEADING LOFT JAZZ PERFORMANCE SPACES AT THE TIME, AND THE ALBUM REFLECTS THE RELAXED LOFT AMBIENCE.
Steve Lacy released a spate of solo recordings in the late 1990s, including the wonderfully lively Actuality and an equally stirring set at Chicago's Unity Temple dominated by a Thelonious Monk medley. Snips, however, harks back to Lacy's first solo concert in America, recorded in 1976 in a New York City loft. Although the sound recording can be indistinct and is often filled with annoying microphone distortions, Lacy's performance is inspiring. Lacy is considered an avant-gardist, but he operates with bracing lucidity. It's startlingly easy to follow his twisting trails in, out of, and, often, very far away from a song's melodic line. Whether Lacy is marking the perimeter of a tune with sharply drawn lines, or conjuring entirely new sounds and textures within a composition's center, he steadfastly maintains the ability to hold and explain a theme. Whether he's snatching fragments of a melody as they fly quickly by, caught in the winds of improvisation, or patiently toying with every possible melodic combination of a stated phrase, Lacy's abstractions resolutely serve the compositions. The Snips set includes "Hookey," which features Lacy breaking from his horn to advise his audience, "Don't stay in school; don't stay in school." That's quickly followed by "New York Duck," which, true to its name, features all manner of quacking and horn muttering. The second disc is dominated by Lacy's "Tao" suite, which includes Lacy's recitation of a Buddhist prayer and is nothing less than enchanting. While 80 minutes of solo soprano horn can be a trying listen, and the sound interruptions can be completely maddening, this is an important document in Lacy's catalog. --S. Duda