Music speaks for itself,
And needs no explanation
Either it is alive, or it is not.
The great soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy passed away yesterday at the painfully early age of 69 (Ben Ratliff has a good obituary in today’s NY Times). I can’t communicate to you his keening, inimitable tone or explain how perfectly attuned he was to the oddly-angled music of Thelonious Monk (if you want to give him a try, there’s a list of recommendations here—I’d start with Reflections, whose plangent “Ask Me Now” and “Reflections” make my eyes smart every time); fortunately, as Ratliff says, he “insisted on a literary dimension to his work, incorporating texts by novelists, poets and philosophers,” so I can honor his memory by quoting a couple of poems he set so brilliantly on one of his best records, Owl (1977, available on the Saravah compilation Scratching the Seventies):
Mon pauvre coeur est un hibou
Qu’on cloue, qu’on décloue, qu’on recloue.
De sang, d’ardeur, il est à bout.
Tous ceux qui m’aiment, je les loue.
My poor heart is an owl
That gets nailed and unnailed and renailed.
It’s had it with blood and ardor.
All those who love me, I praise them.]
Nous n’irons pas au but un par un mais par deux
Nous connaissant par deux nous nous connaîtrons tous
Nous nous aimerons tous et nos enfants riront
De la légende noire où pleure un solitaire
We won’t get where we’re going one by one but by twos
Knowing each other by twos we’ll all know each other
We’ll all love each other and our children will laugh
At the black legend in which a solitary cries]
Update. My favorite jazz station, WKCR, is playing Lacy until 7 PM EDT today (Sunday) and all day Monday (midnight to midnight). You can access the internet streams (RealAudio and mp3) here. Enjoy!