Despite being one of the most singular voices to come out of jazz, and one of its most prolific and productive chroniclers, Steve Lacy may not be afforded the seminal status that his playing, composing and band leading warrants. Lacy was a specialist: He played only one reed instrument, the soprano saxophone. And although that horn gained great currency during the last quarter of the 20th century (and has maintained it), the soprano is still thought of largely as a doubling instrument. Even though Lacy is unquestionably one of the three most important soprano saxophonists in the instrument’s history (Sidney Bechet and Evan Parker are the others), his legacy will fall short of canonization. Still, it’s worth nothing that when John Coltrane wanted to take up the soprano, he went to Lacy for advice and instruction.
Live in Lugano features Lacy joined by the well attuned guitarist Barry Wedgle and the saxophonist’s longtime bassist J.J. Avenel. It’s a smart and edgy trio. Lacy’s powerful voice never threatens to topple the established group balance. The players use markedly different approaches to the music, but each listens closely. Lacy’s distinctive tone, unusually full bodied and always perfectly in tune throughout its entire range (the soprano is notoriously subject to going out of tune) contrasts nicely with the woody sounds of Wedgle’s acoustic guitar and Avenel’s bass. “On a Train Going By” begins with a standard Lacy compositional approach: a repeated figure, followed by melody simple and deliberately stated. Behind this, guitar and bass set up a resolute chugging pattern; the train is on its way. Lacy alternates between patterns, solidly-chosen melodic lines, and an astonishing array of “train” effects done through the use of harmonics and false fingerings.
It’s a virtuoso performance, and it’s followed by others: The glissando in the “Wickets’” theme is executed with jaw-dropping ease. Wedgle’s accompaniment here is cranky commentary that serves as an effective counterweight to Lacy’s increasingly fervent lines. “Clinches” features African thumb piano playing an ostinato figure as the soprano comes in, moving from off-mic toward the center, then backing away. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and it’s enormously effective. Lacy is back, front and center of “The Eye,” while J. J. Avenel sets up a dangerous sound pattern, resonant and dark, rhythmically tensile. Wedgle strums metallically, alternating this with dry, almost toneless sounding chords. Above this all, Lacy lays out the desolate theme. It’s yearning music of remarkable power.
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 also became a highly distinctive composer with a signature simplicity of style, with compositions often built out of little more than a single questioning phrase, repeated several times.
The music of Thelonious Monk became a permanent part of Lacy's repertoire after a stint in the pianist's band, with Monk's songs appearing on virtually every Lacy album and concert program; Lacy often partnered with trombonist Roswell Rudd in exploring Monk's work. Beyond Monk, Lacy 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 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).
Europe & sextet
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.
The core of Lacy's activities from the 1970s to the 1990s was his sextet: his wife, singer/violinist Irene Aebi, soprano/alto saxophonist Steve Potts, pianist Bobby Few, bassist [kent carter 1970 -81 [Jean-Jacques Avenel]], and drummer Oliver Johnson (later John Betsch). Sometimes this group was scaled up to a large ensemble (e.g. Vespers, Soul Note, 1993, which added Ricky Ford on tenor sax and Tom Varner on French horn), sometimes pared down to a quartet, trio, or even a two-saxophone duo. He played duos with pianist Eric Watson. Lacy also, beginning in the 1970s, became a specialist in solo saxophone; he ranks with Anthony Braxton and Evan Parker in the development of this demanding form of improvisation.
Lacy was interested in all the arts: the visual arts and poetry in particular became important sources for him. Collaborating with painters and dancers in multimedia projects, he made musical settings of his favourite writers: Robert Creeley, Samuel Beckett, Tom Raworth, Taslima Nasrin, Herman Melville, Brion Gysin and other Beat writers, including settings for the Tao Te Ching and haiku poetry. As Creeley noted in The Poetry Project Newsletter, "There’s no way simply to make clear how particular Steve Lacy was to poets or how much he can now teach them by fact of his own practice and example. No one was ever more generous or perceptive."
 Later career
In 1992, he was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (nicknamed the "genius grant").
He also collaborated with a truly extraordinary range of musicians, from traditional jazz to the avant-garde to contemporary classical music. Outside of his regular sextet, his most regular collaborator was pianist Mal Waldron, with whom he recorded a number of duet albums (notably Sempre Amore, a collection of Ellington/Strayhorn material, Soul Note, 1987).
Lacy returned to the United States in 2002, where he began teaching at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. One of his last public performances was in front of 25,000 people at the close of a peace rally on Boston Common in March 2003, shortly before the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Barry Wedgle wasn't born with a guitar in his hands, but he soon made up for that lapse by the time he was 12, he was leading his own band & playing around his hometown, Denver, Colorado. Like many players who grew-up in the sixties & later moved into jazz, Barry was greatly influenced by Jimi Hendrix. But between Jimi & jazz, Barry listened to and mastered many different styles to be categorized. For example, his flamenco playing was good enough to tour extensively in Spain, Mexico, Central & South America. for people who know the real deal.
When he first hit New York he spent considerable time jamming and running around the city with another player, Pat Metheny. He returned to Denver to record his first album, Kake, featuring Collin Walcott, Paul McCandless & Jay Clayton. When other artists heard him they remembered the frizzy haired, out going guitarist. Harry Belafonte flew him to Toronto for a concert. Allen Ginsberg asked him to accompany readings. Taj Mahal invited him on stage at New Morning, in Paris. He recorded at Mount Fuji with the popular Japanese Rolling Club Band.
Wedgles real love has remained jazz, and hes paid his dues to establish himself in that form, touring through Europe with Sam Rivers and Steve Lacy, having done three recordings with Steve and maintaining both a duo-concert & recording relationship. Bouncing between Europe, the U.S., Japan and South America, Barry continues gigging and recording with other top shelf performers, Mal Waldron, John Hicks, and Joe Lee Wilson, to name a few.
What kind of guitar does Barry Wedgle play? A lot of guitar. Rather than waste your time with a pile of adjectives extolling his qualities, I suggest you listen for a while and enjoy.
David (Fathead) Newman
Joe Lee Wilson
John Kaisan Neptune
Jean Jacque Avenel
David Murray Big Band
David Gilmore Live in Bankok at the Oriental Hotelphot by Kanoko HiranoFranceMoscow, RussiaCali, ColombiaItaly, on tour with Sam Rivers, Steve McCraven & Steve NeilBarry Wedgle
Comments and Press Reviews
"The first poly-free guitar player. The most interesting of the decade".
Steve Lacy (soprano saxophonist extrordinare) Paris, France 1984
Wedgle, who has played on two Grammy-nominated jazz albums ("Rare Silk" and "The Antidote) and is one of the premier players in the region. Bill Reed The Colorado Springs Gazzette 2004
"Barry Wedgle has again shifted expectations, and has produced one of his most important musical statements to date." Paradise#1014 Nick Lea Jazzviews web site 2004
"Jazz guitarist Barry Wedgle has wondered the globe in his quest to forge a solo style unlike any other".
Nancy Motsumoto, The Magazine, Tokyo, Japan, Dec, 88.
"Barry Wedgle has a rare combination of many styles". From a European tour with Sam Rivers, Steve McCraven and Steve Niel.
Roveretto Daily, Roveretto, Italy 1983
"A guitarist of illuminating solos".
Loic Chaveau, Montpelier, France 1983
Improvisations (Exit Records). When two highly tecnhical guitar-noodlers decide to sit down with a laptop and a couple of mikes to improvise, the results might serve for posterity's sake and little else - especially if they've never met. But when said noodlers are microtonalist Neil Haverstick and flamenco/jazz ace Barry Wedgle, it's a collision course of two distictive and exciting styleswell worth documenting.- La Briola Westword magazines best cd's of 2004
"Strange and iridescent. Acoustic Spanish jazz guitar strung
between a boudin (drum) and a egil (3 string gypsy violin)
with shamanic vocals and throat singing intermixed - this
incredible CD is beyond description and very, very good." "Country and Eastern" review, Exit Records #1006 Brett Simpson 2004
"Veteran Barry Wedgle puts his own twist on the guitar combo session format by concentrating on acoustic rather than electric guitar. The acoustic gives his sound a human urgency that's a welcome contrast to the glibness of so many mainstream electric guitarists.", "Paradise" review Exit Records #1014 David Dupont 2004
Paradise", 2004 Guitarist Barry Wedgle has toured the world extensively, playing with everyone from Harry Belafonte to Steve Lacy. He was reared on Hendrix but eventually moved on to jazz and actually toured for a spell playing flamenco. "Paradise" finds Wedgle playing with veteran jazz musicians, most notably, drum master Billy Hart, who has performed with the best, from McCoy Tyner to Herbie Hancock. Wedgle plays a classical guitar throughout. His compositions range from darkly ethereal -- "Love Life" and the title track bring to mind mid sixties Wayne Shorter -- to Monkesque. The opening riffs of "Dumpling" are humorously dissonant and playful. The melody, played in unison, then in harmony by Wedgle and saxophonist George Garzone, jaunts, jabs and teases. What follows is an experimental, loose, and enjoyable jam. Good fun. © Chip O'Brien 'Minor Seventh-Short takes'
Barry Wedgle Discography
Exit Records #1009
Barry Wedgle-Composer, Guitar
Fly McClard-Tenor Saxophone &
Glen Nitta-Alto Saxophone
Mark Harris-Tenor Saxophone
Walter Dawkins-Tenor Saxophone
Bob Burnham-Engineer & Producer
Brad Smith-Engineer & Producer
Recorded in Denver, Colorado in 1982.
French bassist, born 6th April 1948 in Le Havre.
Recorded In Groups:
Benoît Delbecq 5, Benoît Delbecq Trio, Gaël Mevel Quintet, Gaël Mevel Trio, Michel Edelin Trio, Noah Howard Quartet, Steve Lacy & Cie, Steve Lacy + 6, Steve Lacy 6, Steve Lacy Double Sextet, Steve Lacy Five, Steve Lacy Four, Steve Lacy Nine, Steve Lacy Octet, Steve Lacy Quartet, The, Steve Lacy Seven, Steve Lacy Sextet, The, Steve Lacy Trio, Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd Quartet