Steve Lacy's the Cry | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Steve Lacy's the Cry 

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Over the last 45 years Steve Lacy has woven several threads through his forceful and startling music. One involves his instrument: few modern players have concentrated on the soprano sax, and Lacy was the first, predating John Coltrane by nearly a decade and achieving a blunt, boldly unornamented sound. His timbre and texture cross with another musical thread, his early championing and continued emphasis on the compositions of Thelonious Monk. But perhaps the least-known component of Lacy's work is his series of adaptations from literature, in which he's composed music to complement, frame, or accompany writings by Herman Melville, William S. Burroughs, Buckminster Fuller, and Brion Gysin. This week he brings to Chicago the latest of these: The Cry (which makes its North American debut tonight in Vancouver, at the du Maurier International Jazz Festival) adapts into song 12 poems by Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, whose angry and honest depiction of the plight of Muslim women has prompted Bangladeshi clerics to call for her death. Lacy describes The Cry as "all women's stories, from poetry to song to jazz, transformed"; the piece also treats "the nature of language, the power of the word, the danger and necessity of speaking out." The political wallop of Nasrin's poetry makes this something of a departure for Lacy, as do the polyphonic writing and the instrumentation. He's added accordion to his regular quintet and replaced the piano with harpsichord; these thin, reedy instruments, combined with Lacy and Tina Wrase's soprano saxes, give the music an especially cloistered feel. The group also features two longtime Lacy associates, bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and vocalist Irene Aebi. Tuesday, 7:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Frans Schellekers.

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