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Snips by Steve Lacy

It is painful to have to criticize one of the greatest saxophonists of all time, but this solo album by Steve Lacy is little more than a historical curiosity. Only his most selfless admirers will make it through the whole two-disc set. "Snips" is a live performance recorded onto cassette by a fan. It includes candy-wrapper-like rustlings throughout, long silences at the beginning of tracks, and poor acoustics that make Lacy sound at once too far away and too close - as if he's standing in the tub with the bathroom door closed. A more professional publisher would at least have edited out the silences between tracks, and made some attempt to soften the noisy background sounds.

As for the music itself, this new release was recorded in 1976 during a particularly adolescent (read: "how much noise can the audience put up with?") phase of modern jazz. Lacy is at his noisiest and most self-indulgent, alternating honks and squeals with monotonous scalar offerings and repeated snips of melody. Repeated over and over. Until you can't take it any more. In the title track, "snips," for instance, Lacy subjects us to sounds like nails on a chalkboard, a mule, and a squeaky balloon. The music is not atonal, but the notes are deliberately out of tune. Add to this the frequent pauses and disjointed phrasing and you begin to feel that this soloist is practicing rather than performing. His New York audience in the Environ loft space may have been willing to put up with it, but today's jazz fans will say that the emperor, at least on this recording, has no clothes.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Steve Lacy
  • CD Title: Snips
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2000
  • Record Label: Jazz Magnet Records
  • Musicians: Steve Lacy (soprano saxophone)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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