"Yet another excellent album by Lacy, the expatriate soprano saxophonist."
Francis Davis, Philadelphia Enquirer, 31 March, 1988
"The Music of Lacy and Tyler, providing a strong dose of unadorned creativity, is quite happily unconcerned with being fashionable or appropriate."
Paul Baker, Jazznews International, April 1988
However, many things have improved as the years have rolled by. IRCAM, in Paris, is a fine example of governmental initiative and this is where Keith Knox and I decided to record Steve Lacy and Charles Tyler between June 11th and 14th, 1986, because, for one reason among many, Charles too (since 1985) lives in Paris. Steve has lived there for the past 15 years, of course. I've listened to Steve since the fifties and have something like 30 recordings by him, of which my favorite is a solo album from Théatre du Chêne Noir, made August 7th and 8th, 1972. The first time I heard Steve Lacy in person was in Stockholm on October 13th, 1982. The first time I heard Charles Tyler live was in New York on December 15th, 1973. Charles had moved from the west coast that day. He had arrived in New York City and gone that same evening to sit in with Dewey Redman's group at Sam River's Rivbea. I still recall with great clarity those careening solos, bursting with ideas, that Charles ripped off that evening. I've bought every one of Charles' records since then.
The conditions for the recording session in studio five at IRCAM could have been better. Steve's group had an engagement at the Sunset Club that very same week, which began at 11:00 each evening and went on until 3 or 4 in the morning. Charles had been traveling in the south of France and had had no opportunity of working with Steve. Studio time was limited, but the place was staffed by an extremely competent recording team – David Wessel and Didier Arditi.
IRCAM is a highly prestigious establishment. Well known personages came and went. One day Mauricio Kagel came in and listened to a take. It was a very tough rehearsal and recording assignment for all concerned, but especially for Charles with his big heavy copper baritone – a new experimental horn from Buffet. It was anaconda versus cobra, Hershey's Milkyway versus Wrigley's Spearmint, Ingres versus Mondrian – the emotional and eruptive playing of Charles versus the businesslike appearance and watchlike precision of Steve. Steve was pretty much determined that his soprano should be featured throughout the recording – and, although there was some discussion of whether Charles should alternate between his instruments, he was interested primarily in Charles playing baritone as a supporting horn.
Clearly, there was a degree of tension between the two saxists, which lent a dynamic aspect to the various takes. The pressure was eased by Oliver with his odd jokes. When the air conditioning made the studio too chilly for instance, Oliver suddenly shouted, "Let's go out and hunt animals!". Easier said than done, 20 meters from Centre Pompidou where we used to sit and have a beer after each session.
During one of these café visits, Steve and I began to talk about a black American painter I'd been interested in for a long time, Bob Thompson, who lived a brief but hectic life (he died in 1966, at the age of 29), was known in jazz musicians' circles and turned out to be an old and dear friend of Steve's.
Archie Shepp dedicated a tune to Thompson on his 'Mama Too Tight' album (Impulse A-9134 "Portrait of Robert Thompson as a Young Man"), and Steve has made a recording called 'The Forest and the Zoo' (ESP 1060) on which the backliner includes a photograph taken in Rome with Steve, Bob and bassist Johnny Dyani and the front cover features a painting by Bob.
The reproduction of Bob's painting on the ESP album was not very good and Steve thought it was a splendid idea, because of this, to let the front cover of our record consist of a painting called "The Hairdresser", that I knew of. In Steve's mind – and he has considerable familiarity with Bob Thompson's work – the voodooistic hairdresser is intimately coupled with the inner significance of the album title, 'One Fell Swoop'. Strangely enough, it turned out later when we demounted the canvas for photographing that it was painted in 1962/63 precisely in Paris, according to a note on the back of the painting.
The days passed by with the demanding work of rehearsals and with Steve's group at night in the Sunset – Steve, Steve Potts, Jean-Jacques Avenel and Oliver Johnson.
On Friday the 13th, Steve decided that we should include the Monk tune, "Friday the Thirteenth". On Saturday the 14th, Steve had his instrument fixed by the 'horn doctor' and didn't appear at the studio until noon. While we were waiting, I asked Charles to record one of his own tunes with the trio; he was nervous about doing so because it was Steve's gig. As things worked out he recorded an old tune of his, "Ode to Lady Day", and Steve was quite pleased about it because a nice bit of variety was introduced.
Also on Saturday the 14th, Steve Potts was not able to participate at the Sunset because of a huge anti-racist meeting at the Bastille, where 300,000 people were gathered under the banner "TOUCHE PAS A MON POTE".
To finish the recording, we had agreed to rent the studio for several additional hours on Sunday the 15th, during which we completed the project.
I went home to Steve's place afterwards to discuss a further album which was to be recorded in New York. I had an early lunch later with Charles at which we talked, among many other things, about the improbable chain of events that led up to this production. A few lines come to mind from an interview Peter Bull made with Steve Lacy for his film documentary, Steve Lacy:
Lift the Bandstand. "But these things are sort of mysterious, they sort of fall from the sky and you take them up. It's not really a logical step-by-step... it's more like a series of leaps into the unknown. And each time, well I remember once, I was a kid... I was in a record store and I had never heard any jazz really, and I saw some Ellington records there. And it said, Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra. Well I was just a kid and I wondered why his orchestra was famous, and... so I had some money from my birthday and I bought these records without having heard them. Just... it sort of like smelled interesting, this... it was an album of four records, four 78's. And I took it home, and that was it. That was the beginning of my whole story that I'm still living now. Now, these kind of flashes... like that... are intuitive and mysterious and you can't say much about them."
That's how it was here. The evening I met Charles in New York in 1973 which led to his European tour a few years later: the painting of "The Hairdresser" which I saw at Martha Jackson's in New York in 1976, quite by chance. Charles Tyler introduced me to Keith Knox in Stockholm in 1982, the year I met Steve at Fasching.
It's true: "These things are sort of mysterious, they sort of fall from the sky and you take them up."
1. One Fell Swoop (Take 2) 07:52
2. Ode to Lady Day 07:34
3. Wickets 09:46
4. Keepsake 08:44
5. The Advantures Of 07:17
6. Friday the Thirteenth 04:53
7. One Fell Swoop (Take 1) 07:07
Steve Lacy soprano saxophone
Charles Tyler baritone & alto saxophone
Jean-Jacques Avenel bass
Oliver Johnson drums