Steve Lacy was the first, after Sydney Bechet, to devote himself solely to the soprano saxophone. Through its flexibility, richness of tone and swing, he gave the instrument a new lease of life and inspired John Coltrane to start playing it.
Steven Norman Lackritz was born in 1934 in New York. As a teenager, he photographed musicians to sell their portraits at concerts. It was on this occasion that he met the man who introduced him to jazz: musician and conductor Cecil Scott.
In the early 1950s, he became a professional musician, playing clarinet and saxophone in clubs, while studying at the Schilliger House of Music in Boston and then at the Manhattan School of Music. His meeting with pianist Cecil Taylor in 1953 truly launched his career. Taylor introduced him to the music of Thelonious Monk, who would be his main source of inspiration and whom he would play throughout his life.
He quickly specialized in the soprano saxophone and became its major figure. While he is Cecil Taylor's main partner, he also plays with Roswell Bud, Gil Evans, and Thelonious Monk, his mentor.
In the 1960s, after having participated in the rise of free jazz with Ornette Coleman, he moved to Europe and became one of its main representatives. A musician considered as a soloist, he plays and records a lot in solo (his own compositions and those of Monk), but also in duo or with his band.
Steve Lacy died in 2004 in Boston. He had returned to the United States three years earlier to teach at the New England Conservatory. A leading figure in free jazz and soprano saxophone, he was a source of inspiration for many saxophonists, including John Coltrane. He played for a long time on a Mark VI before opting for Series III.
Photo credit: Christian Rose
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