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Steve Lacy: Conversations Hardcover – August 9, 2006

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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“A phenomenal interviewee. . . . Whether [Steve Lacy] was making bold predictions on future directions of the music, describing his fascinating projects, laying forth broad challenges to himself and other artists, or making succinct observations of the musical world he inhabited, Lacy’s words proved to be almost as interesting as his music.”—Down Beat, on inducting Lacy into the Down Beat Hall of Fame


“Steve Lacy’s soul-rending sounds emerge out of the chaos of our times like the announcement of the beautiful nonviolent anarchist revolution. In the passionate intelligence of his compositions, every note is the sound of freedom.”—Judith Malina, actress, writer, and co-founder of the Living Theatre


“[A] heart-rending, ear- and eye-opening book. It is a knock-out, an omelette aux fines herbes, an impeccable Lacy line of weird angles and implied major seconds. A bag full of Dixie, borscht-belt air, Cecil Taylor, Thelonious Monk, Gil Evans, Musica Elettronica Viva, the road, Rome, Paris, New York, Asia, Boston, backstage philosophy, painters, poets and corduroy. A life of roaming music lessons on stage and in the streets, in museums and at home—compositions all, that most professors have long excluded from their curriculae. No sour grapes nor sentimental journey in this book, just the pure straight dope.”
(Alvin Curran, The New York Times Online)

“This is an exemplary project, carefully planned, lovingly assembled and handsomely produced. Conversations is a fitting tribute to a giant of modern jazz.”
(Stuart Kremsky, International Association of Jazz Record Collectors Journal)

“Weiss’s cogent introductions to each interview effectively fill in the chronology of Lacy’s life and contextualize his evolution as a musician. . . . An interview with The Wire . . ., a John Corbett interview in Downbeat . . . and an interview with Ben Ratliff all feel like intimate conversations you just happen to have overheard. They are as lovely, offbeat, and surprising as Lacy’s compositions.”
(Stephanie Hanson, Bookforum)

"This well-illustrated and attractively produced book collects interviews with Lacy and presents them chronologically. . . . [A] fitting tribute to one of the supreme masters of [the pure improvised] movement."
(Andy Hamilton, The Wire)

From the Back Cover

"Steve Lacy's soul-rending sounds emerge out of the chaos of our times like the announcement of the beautiful nonviolent anarchist revolution. In the passionate intelligence of his compositions, every note is the sound of freedom."--Judith Malina, actress, writer, and co-founder of the Living Theatre
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (August 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822338262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822338260
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,582,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on August 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
It's hard to get excited about a book that consists entirely of interviews conducted over years by a wide variety of scribes, and yet STEVE LACY CONVERSATIONS emerges as a triumph for editor Jason Weiss. It's nearly as good as Kenneth Goldsmith's edition of inter views with Warhol that came out a few seasons ago (I'LL BE YOUR MIRROR). Like Warhol, Lacy was sometimes interiewed by hacks who sometimes muddled or confused his message, and a few times here you have to imagine what Lacy really might have replied before the tape or whatever got transcribed incorrectly. That makes for some fun though, and it forces the reader into working out the sense, allowing the reader to become involved in the process as well.

Weiss tells us that he became interested in Lacy's music primarily through his, and Irene Aebi's, connections to Brion Gysin, whose READER Weiss edited a while back. For nearly two decades Lacy and Gysin were co-conspirators, a "songwriting team," Weiss suggests, like Rodgers and Hammerstein or Greenwich and Barry. Lacy had an equally long, well longer, intimacy with the work of his mentor, jazz pianist Cecil Taylor, and then, from 1960 to his own death, he was frequently a pilgrim to the shrine of Thelonius Monk, whose work he revered beyond all others.

His wife, Irene Aebi, had many connections in the beat world, and their last LP together, BEAT SUITE, is a song cycle using texts from many canonical Beat poets (and such allied figures as Jack Spicer) whom Aebi knew from her youth. French Canadian musicians interviewed Lacy in 1976 in Montreal and New York; their interview is one of the best here, with some probing, intelligent questions designed to elicit thoughtful replies.
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I probably have spent 40 years reading music books of every size and shape - histories, bios, photo books, you name it - but this relatively small volume ranks among the very best I've ever read. Lacy was a musical genius, and time will only enrich that status. But he was also one of the most articulate explainers of art. On nearly every page of this book, there's some concise and beautiful statement about music or about the making of art that will have you saying, "I gotta remember this." He's funny, humble, gracious, and outspoken. No matter whether you like (or even know about) his music -you'll learn a lot by spending a few hours of reading time with Steve Lacy. Jason Weiss has done a great service for all of us and a great honor to Lacy's memory by preserving these conversations.
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I love that these interviews take place over many years and revisit some of the same subjects with slightly different nuances each time -- Monk's appreciation of 'Mistakes', the freedom that emerges from imposed restraints, the importance of holding to personal creative principles etc.

What a deep pleasure it was to track the thoughts and insights of a master of his instrument, and of the creative process itself, over a lifetime which spanned the history of the music. I had no idea that he began playing with the likes of Pee Wee Russell and Charlie Shavers .. and then of course went on to play with Monk, Cecil Taylor, Gil Evens, Don Cherry, Roswell Rudd, Steve Potts .. the list is very long

It makes me wonder why similar collections of interviews have not been published for other jazz players. Was it because Steve Lacy was white, or because he worked in Europe so much? Many thanks to Jason Weiss for this brilliant book, and of course to Steve Lacy for his brilliant work.
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An absolute joy of a book. It's like having a lifelong conversation with one of the most interesting people to have walked the earth. Steve lacy is a unique person, musician and composer. But he is also a bridge between the swing era, the bebop era and the avant garde era in the development of jazz. Like his early mentor, Thelonious Monk, Lacy's path is personal and dangerous for an artist. He makes it seem as if there was never a choice, that the path was before him and he took it. Bravo to Jason Weiss for making this important, endlessly thought-provoking book.
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As a saxophonist who is a longtime fan and admirer of the music of Steve Lacy, I was completely absorbed in reading his thoughts about his music, as well as his views on music, art, culture and the commercial concerns and challenges of a deeply creative musician struggling to follow his own path.
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