• 1. 38 (13:07)
  • 2. FLAKES (07:49)
  • 4. STAPLES (09:41)
  • 5. DREAMS (11:25)
  • 6. SWISHES (05:46)
  • 7. SOPS (07:08)
  • 8. SNAPS (09:18)
  • 9. SNAPS (alternative) (08:28)

Saxophone Special +

Music for four saxophones (STEVE LACY, EVAN PARKER, STEVE POTTS & TREVOR WATTS) with guitar (DEREK BAILEY) & synthesiser (MICHEL WAISVISZ). Plus highlights from an earlier London concert by LACY, POTTS, BAILEY, KENT CARTER & JOHN STEVENS. Improvisations on original compositions. 77 minutes.

STEVE LACY soprano saxophone
STEVE POTTS soprano & alto saxophones
DEREK BAILEY amplified guitar
KENT CARTER amplified double bass
JOHN STEVENS percussion

STEVE LACY soprano saxophone, gramophone
STEVE POTTS soprano & alto saxophones
TREVOR WATTS soprano & alto saxophones
EVAN PARKER soprano, tenor & baritone saxophones
DEREK BAILEY amplified guitar (not on 7)
MICHEL WAISVISZ synthesizer (not on 7)

Excerpts from sleeve notes:
In 1973, several musicians were invited to perform at concerts celebrating an exhibition of Val Wilmer's photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Steve Lacy was one of those invited, and he decided to bring just Steve Potts and Kent Carter, and team up with Derek Bailey and John Stevens, with whom he had worked at the 1970 Baden Baden meeting. Madelaine Davidson and I decided to organise another concert a couple of days later at the everlasting 100 Club, and record it.

Potts worked in most of Lacy's groups from 1971 to 1995, and was an important factor in their sound. Apart from being a lively soloist, his essential role in the theme statements is amplified by the following remarks that Lacy made when I interviewed him in 1974: 'Almost everything I've written for quite a few years now is in seconds. It's like one line, but it's thickened by another line quite adjacent to it. There are two kinds of seconds, major and minor, and they both fall into what's known as dissonant category, which is a useless category. Actually, to me they ring like bells if they're in the right order, if they're placed right and if they're pitched right. It's a way of speaking with a forked tongue, if you like.' Or it's a way of making the tunes sound right!

Carter worked with Lacy in the mid 1960s and throughout the 1970s. This was his first visit to London, and his first meeting with either Bailey or Stevens. Out of this came several musical encounters over the years, mainly with Stevens.

From 1972 to 1975, Bailey was primarily using stereo amplification, with two speakers controlled by two volume pedals. Unfortunately, this stereo spread cannot be heard in this mono recording. Around 1967, Stevens built a quiet percussion kit, that brought his volume down to that of the other acoustic instruments in his Spontaneous Music Ensemble. For his gigs with Lacy, he used the latest version of that kit with additions from his full size jazz kit.

Strange as it may now seem, there were few records of Lacy available then, so it seemed important to get a record of this quintet out, even though the recording was not brilliant (being one of my first), and the music was variable. It now seems appropriate to reissue just the three best performances.

For the original LP release, Lacy wrote the following: '38 is a self-portrait dedicated to, and in the manner of, Coleman Hawkins, who taught me something about ageing. FLAKES features Derek and is an ice-skating piece written for Mark Rothko. REVOLUTIONARY SUICIDE is to and from Huey Newton (see his book).'

On that visit, Lacy brought with him tapes of his sensational first solo concert, with the hope of finding someone who would be interested in issuing them. That resulted in the first Emanem LP (now reissued on AVIGNON AND AFTER - 1 ). He also gave me a copy of the excellent over-dubbed solo LP LAPIS (last available on SCRATCHING THE SEVENTIES / DREAMS Saravah). This gave me the idea, early in 1974, to suggest to him that it would be interesting to hear similar music involving other distinctive soprano saxophonists. Between us we came up with Evan Parker, Steve Potts and Trevor Watts. In addition, Lacy suggested what he called a "noise section" of Derek Bailey and Michel Waisvisz. This was my introduction to Waisvisz, with whom Lacy had recorded the fine ICP album LUMPS a few months before this concert. He played a synthesizer without a keyboard, using many mysterious hand movements.

It was not possible to schedule the concert until the end of the year owing to conflicting commitments. Even then, Lacy, Potts and Waisvisz were unable to get to London from Paris and Amsterdam until the previous day. To further diminish the time scale, Bailey and Parker (along with Paul Lytton) were offered an extended gig in Freiburg that could have gone on beyond the date of the concert. They decided to take it until the previous night, then get a taxi to Basel, and hence fly back to London on the morning of the concert, leaving Lytton to drive back with all the heavy equipment in his van.

All in all, rehearsals could not commence until around noon on the day of the concert. Lacy had previously sent some of his compositions to Parker and Watts who had diligently rehearsed them, but he subsequently decided not to use those pieces. Instead he wrote three pieces especially for the concert, and also chose to use DREAMS. The running order was to be STAPLES, DREAMS, SWISHES and SNAPS, with a total improvisation featuring four soprano saxophones between the last two pieces. This sequence was to be repeated in both halves of the concert with only the resulting improvisations being different. However, in spite of the same format, the two halves turned out to be very different.

The end result was some remarkable music, marred from time to time by inaccurate theme statements and incompatible improvisations caused by the brevity of rehearsal time. No rules were given for the improvisational sections - it was left entirely to the musicians' sensibilities. From the three recorded versions of the sequence - rehearsal, first set and second set - Lacy chose the best complete versions of each piece to make up a 'perfect' set that was released as an LP.

The chosen version of STAPLES comes from the second set. The piece was preceded by a semi-ritual tune-up on each occasion.
A dreamy introduction brings in DREAMS taken from the first set. During all three versions of this, Lacy played two gramophone records (that I happened to be borrowing from the local public library) - dreams of a steam train and a symphony orchestra.
The theme statement of SWISHES was not played cleanly in either half of the concert, so the chosen version is the rehearsal. Evan Parker makes his only public appearance or recording on baritone saxophone. This is the only published recording of this piece.
In the rehearsal and first set, the free improvisation featured all six musicians. In the second set, heard here, it was just performed by the four soprano saxophonists, and hence earned the title SOPS. Is this the earliest recording of a free improvisation by a saxophone quartet?

Both of the concert versions of SNAPS were played cleanly, so it was a difficult choice as to which one to include on the LP. The CD format allows us to include both of them, with their very different improvisational sequences. In particular note Lacy’s excellent solo half way through the previously unissued version from the first set. These are the only published recordings of SNAPS.
This was one of the strangest concerts I have been to, let alone organised. But for all its strangeness, it certainly resulted in some very fine and unique music.

Album label: 
Release date: 
01.01 / 1998
Recording date: 
19.12 / 1974
Recording location: 
London (100 Club) 1973 and (Wigmore Hall) 1974
Artwork design : Steve Lacy and Martin Davidson
Mastering engineer : Martin Davidson
Producer : Martin Davidson
Recording engineer : Martin Davidson

You might also like

Steve Lacy
Steve Lacy
John Carter & Bobby Bradford
Tomasz Dąbrowski FREE4ARTS
Kasper Tom 5