Tag Archives: Kent Carter

The New York City Jazz Record review by Clifford Allen

CF 247The Whammies – Play the Music of Steve Lacy (Driff)
Steve Lacy – Estilhaços (Live in Lisbon) (Clean Feed)
Steve Lacy/Kent Carter/Andrea Centazzo – Lost in June (Ictus)
Maria Monti – Il Bestiario (featuring Alvin Curran + Steve Lacy) (Ri-Fi – Unseen Worlds)
In this music, legacies are an interesting thing. How are we to perceive/deal with the work of an esteemed musician/composer after their death? What is more important – the songbook or conjuring the ‘feeling’ of the absent artist? For a figure like soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy (1934-2004), whose work was both tuneful and open-ended and who saw himself in a lineage of figures liberating and extending the possibilities of form and improvisation, it’s tough to figure out the ‘right’ response.

Challenging as it might be, Lacy’s compositions are sometimes covered by others. In addition to the excellent New York quartet Ideal Bread, we can now add transatlantic group The Whammies to the list of repertory interpreters. The Whammies feature the saxophonist’s former students, collaborators and estimable contemporary improvisers – pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, altoist Jorrit Dijkstra, violinist/violist Mary Oliver, drummer Han Bennink, bassist Nate McBride and trombonist Jeb Bishop. Dijkstra is a searing and quixotic player; combined with the garrulous and fleet trombone of Bishop and Karayorgis’ blocky, motivic phrasing, the ensemble is knotty and swinging and hinges on a surprisingly tasteful Bennink. The Whammies are respectful yet calamitousin respect to Lacy’s ‘book’, which needs a bit of dirt under the fingernails to remain relevant.

One of Lacy’s grittiest recordings was the first LP waxed by his ‘70s quintet with cellist/violinist Irène Aebi, saxophonist Steve Potts, bassist Kent Carter and drummer Noel McGhie. Estilhaços (“shrapnel”) was recorded live on Feb. 29th, 1972 at the Cinema Monumental in Lisbon during a period of colonial war and crowning tensions between the Estado Novo regime and pro-democracy resistance. Potts was coming off work with François Tusques, Alan Silva and Sunny Murray and adds a crid explosiveness to a set that is more blistering than snippy or quirky, with the leader’s gold-toned soprano often closer to a thin scream of anguish, fitting in times of tumult. McGhie is an underrated percussionist, his dry and chatty propulsion giving the ensemble a jaunty ruggedness. Clean Feed has reissued this rare piece with decent fidelity and its attractive gatefold sleeve mimics the handsome original.

Lacy and Kent Carter were frequent collaboratorsfrom 1965-82, when the bassist’s student Jean-JacquesAvenel took over. Among their work together was a fine mid ‘70s trio with Italian percussionist Andrea Centazzo, first documented on the Ictus LP Trio Live (1976). Lost in June is a summer 1977 recording by the same group, a mono audience tape that was thought lost until recently and featuring a bevy of period Lacy compositions. Sure, it’s lo-fi but the music contained is incredible, extremely concentrated and methodical but quite unfettered on the gorgeous “Coastline” that opens the set, part of a suite titled “The 4 Edges”. This early version of the suite is elemental in structure, though one can feel its text-absent declarative lyricism and orchestral weight triangulated between the three musicians. Lost in June is an essential set from one of the more overlooked groups in Lacy’s discography.

Given Lacy’s interest in poetry and art song and the importance of Irène Aebi’s vocals in his art, it’s no surprise that he lent his instrumental accent to a variety of curious vocal-centric recordings, such as Italian chanteuse Maria Monti’s 1974 LP Il Bestiario. Containing protest songs arranged by composer Alvin Curran, it also features guitarists Tony Ackerman and Luca Balbo and baritone saxophonist Roberto Laneri. The original (on Ri-Fi) is rare as hen’s teeth, so this limited CD reissue is quite welcome. Not all of the tracks here feature Lacy – they range from fantasias for bubbling synthesizer and voice to bluesy lieder with plaintive guitar and woodwind lines. Lacy’s sound isso distinctive that it adds a strong degree of curious lyrical commentary to the often-eccentric proceedings, whether playing it straight or strange. Il Bestiario is a great record and, as with any Lacy sideman appearance, gives one a fuller picture of this fascinating and consistently engaged improvising composer.

Cuadernos de Jazz review by Jesús Gonzalo

Steve Lacy Quintet – Estilhaços (CF 247)
La oportunidad que nos brinda clean feed al rescatar este concierto de Steve Lacy a comienzos de los 70 tiene una importancia que va más allá de la escena portuguesa. Por un lado sirve para homenajear la decisiva actividad realizada por el espacio radiofónico Cinco Minutos de Jazz (CMJ), que el pasado 21 de febrero cumplía 46 años de difusión de esta música a nivel internacional. Por otro se destaca a Steve Potts como valedor del jazz portugués posterior a este encuentro. Lo importante, queremos señalar, es poder disfrutar de la creación de un autor referencial en la modernidad del jazz en un periodo pródigo en títulos publicados o sin reeditar, como el fundamental Scratching the Seventies (5 discos en tres suites que abarca el trabajo comprendido entre 1969 y 1977).

Lacy lleva instalado en Europa desde 1968. Tras pasar por Roma y participar en los más diversos proyectos entre improvisación libre, música contemporánea y electroacústica (Giorgio Gaslini y Richard Teitelbaum), el saxofonista preconfigura una célula creativa como el quinteto justo en este preciso momento. Los músicos que le acompañan en esta sesión, sin Oliver Johnson, serán los protagonistas de gran parte de la producción venidera, y como él estarán afincados en París.

En este contexto creativo en progreso, todo su arte viene dado por esta fórmula de avance y reformulación de lo realizado, nos encontramos con un planteamiento puramente instrumental y en desarrollos colectivos en cierto modo abiertos; es decir, el interés en intercalar elementos literarios o poéticos no canalizan el discurso y por tanto tampoco la voz de Irene Aebi aparece. Volviendo sobre el Scratching the Seventies, sólo en el corte tercero veremos un mensaje hilado en forma de suite entre Chips, Moon y Dreams. Aunque esta pieza sea estructurada entre formas cerradas y abiertas, el material metódico y depurado que nos legará después tiene aquí un punto de origen, si bien es cierto que la elocuencia de conjunto que prevalece en este directo es aquella que se expresa desde ámbitos abiertamente encendidos por la mecha del free jazz y un cálculo enmarañado de movimientos.

Los valores en torno a la estética racionalista impregnada de inspiración plástica de Paul Klee, que tanto admiraba, ceden terreno a la que también sentía por el expresionismo americano de los De Kooning y, sobre todo, Pollock. La geometría queda desfigurada y la música avanza por canales de expresión altamente energéticos, sí, pero también como arte abstracto que se construye con detalle en el espacio interlineal y la indagación cromática. En este sentido, resulta muy interesante comprobar las posibilidades tímbricas extremas y novedosas que extraen Lacy y Potts a los saxos, a través de formulaciones repetitivas (No Baby) y duras inflexiones en los registros que Lacy había aprendido de las técnicas aplicadas al shakuhachi pero también de la inspiración beatnik que traía el Aullido de Allen Ginsberg. Portentoso el trabajo en los saxos, decimos, que tiene otro momento decisivo (afinidad electrónica) en el inicio del tema final The High Way, en el que el desbordamiento con el apoyo en el trabajo con arco, los silbatos y los saxos haciendo de cláxones parecen llamar a la rebelión.

Cuarenta años de este concierto. Cuarenta minutos de música. En el tema introductorio una emisora de radio en portugués se fundía cual espectro sonoro en el mensaje del grupo. Dos años más tarde desde las ondas se anunciaría la Revolución de los Claveles. La vanguardia había llegado a Lisboa.
http://www.cuadernosdejazz.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2340:steve-lacy-quintet&catid=4:discos&Itemid=7

Culture Jazz review by Jean Buzelin

Steve Lacy Quintet – Estilhaços (CF 247)
Autre rareté à reparaître avec la reproduction de sa pochette d’origine — celle-ci, je l’avais en 33 tours ! —, un album d’un concert du quintette de Steve Lacy enregistré à Lisbonne en 1972. Si la notoriété de Steve Lacy n’a rien à voir avec la “non-carrière“ de Marzette Watts, ce disque est d’un grand intérêt malgré l’abondante production de son auteur. En effet, la musique de son quintette régulier n’était encore guère documentée à cette époque (Citons “Wordless“ – Futura GER 22, 1970, et “Laps“ – Saravah 10031, 1971).  Par contre, ses concerts étaient très prisés et cet enregistrement public constitue un excellent témoignage de son travail à l’époque, tant au niveau de ses compositions qu’il reprendra et retravaillera inlassablement, qu’à celui du groupe, toujours en perpétuelle évolution grâce à un personnel stable (seul Noel McGhie ne restera pas très longtemps). Si Steve Potts se montre toujours très tranchant à l’alto, c’est, là aussi, le collectif qui domine, avec au-dessus de la mêlée pourrait-on dire, le phrasé découpé et la sonorité pleine caractéristiques du jeu de ce musicien exceptionnel que fut Steve Lacy.
http://www.culturejazz.fr/spip.php?article1984#up

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Jazztimes review by Shaun Brady

Squid’s Ear review by Paul Serralheiro

Steve Lacy – Estilhacos: Live in Lisbon (CF 247)
Before introducing the Steve Lacy quintet, the announcer at the start of this 1972 concert at Lisbon’s Cinema Monumental claims that contemporary jazz has retaken a beautiful tradition of collective improvisation. The concert then starts with transistor radio signals unleashed by Irene Aebi, as the Lacy quintet of the period launches into its collective improvisation with a six-minute “Stations,” which features voices off Portuguese air waves, and the ecstatic playing of Steve Pots’ alto, Steve Lacy’s chirping soprano, Kent Carter’s probing bass and the cymbal splashes and drum rolls of Noel McGhie.

The rest of the session features playing on some other well-known Lacy pieces, “Chips,” “Moon,” “Dreams, ” “No Baby” and “The High Way,” Aebi adding cello and harmonica to the mix. As is often the case with Lacy concerts, judging from other live recordings, this is a very free reading of composed material and while the thematic material is predetermined, there is a pervasive feeling of spontaneity and the spirit of adventure reigns supreme.

A combination of intense free playing and whimsical punctuations of harmonica, as well as the occasional radio signal get thrown in throughout, with lots of textural variety. A prominent feature of this high energy, burning group effort, is the interesting two-saxes overlaps, and the transistor radio that provides interesting entry points for the aleatory process, something that seems central to Lacy’s compositional aesthetic.

Fernando Pessoa, one of Portugal’s most famous 20th century poets, claimed toward the end of his life that his country was destined to become a cultural leader, and while that may seem like hyperbole, it is clear that Portuguese label Clean Feed is stepping up and releasing some music that supports the continuing efforts of the avant guard. Even though this Lacy disc is a reissue, the music here will still give listeners (musicians and lay listeners alike) something to think about, in this era of misnamed “Jazz festivals” and in a world where jazz has become processed and stylized to the point of sterility and reductive revisionism. What this album asserts is that collective improvisation is a vital defining feature of jazz that will always be best when volatile and uncaged.
http://www.squidsear.com/cgi-bin/news/newsView.cgi?newsID=1472

Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Steve Lacy Quintet – ESTILHACOS (CF 247)
Not only is it always a wonderful thing to hear a new recording or reissue unearthed from the still sorely-missed Lacy, but to have a document from an under-represented period and a slightly different lineup is a special treat. From a 1972 Lisbon recording, Lacy’s quintet on Estilhacos (Irene Aebi on cello, harmonica, and radio, altoist Steve Potts, bassist Kent Carter, and drummer Noel McGhie) was a raw, at times militant art-improv band (and indeed, the band’s knowing decision to dial into Radio Renescenca tapped into the revolutionary mood brewing in Portugal in the early 1970s). With noisy radio signals and a martial sound, the quintet barrels its way through the opening “Stations,” with muted melismatic cello from Aebi and gruff staccato horn polyphony. The band follows this up with a blistering, churning medley of (again) lesser known tunes: “Chips” (where Aebi honks away on harmonica), “Moon,” and “Dreams.” On the latter piece, Potts is positively incendiary atop a groaning bed of sound. A transformed, raucous “No Baby” is miles away from most available versions of this tune. And the closing “The High Way,” finds Lacy revisiting territory similar to “Stations,” a rumbling, droning bed and repeating staccato phrases for the saxophones (almost conjuring the opening of “Wickets”). Top notch.
http://www.paristransatlantic.com/magazine/monthly2012/06jun_text.html#4

Improjazz review by Luc Bouquet