- 1. THE SUN (04:51)
- 2. THE GAP (07:30)
- 3. THE WAY (introduction) (00:39)
- 4. THE WAY (take 5?) (02:51)
- 5. IMPROVISATION (Numero Uno) (04:42)
- 6. THE WAY (take 6) (06:33)
- 7. IMPROVISATION (Numero Due) (04:29)
- 8. CHINESE FOOD (Cantata Polemica) (12:14)
- 9. THE WOE - THE WAX (01:22)
- 10. THE WOE - THE WAGE (16:51)
- 11. THE WOE - THE WANE (09:49)
- 12. THE WOE - THE WAKE (02:24)
Alto Saxophone – Steve Potts
Cello, Voice – Irene Aebi
Double Bass – Kent Carter (tracks: 1, 2, 9 to 12)
Drums – Aldo Romano (tracks: 1, 2), Oliver Johnson
Soprano Saxophone – Steve Lacy (tracks: 1, 2, 4 to 12)
Synthesizer – Richard Teitelbaum (tracks: 4 to 8)
Trumpet – Enrico Rava (tracks: 1, 2)
Vibraphone – Karl Berger (tracks: 1 to 3)
Voice – Irene Aebi (tracks: 1, 4, 6, 8 1o 12)
Four sessions of music mostly against the Vietnam War - all featuring STEVE LACY and IRENE AEBI. (1) A previously unissued 1968 presentation of a complex text by Buckminster Fuller intoned by Aebi - a veritable 5-minute tour de force that presages rap. Plus a 7-minute instrumental head arrangement or graphic score by the quintet with ENRICO RAVA, KARL BERGER, KENT CARTER & ALDO ROMANO. (2) Also from 1968, a trio session with RICHARD TEITELBAUM containing two versions of Lacy's first song, 'The Way', and two duo improvisations, which feature some very adventurous playing on saxophone and synthesizer. This was previously only issued in 2000 on the very limited edition Roaratorio LP 01. (3) The same trio performing the previously unissued 'Chinese Food' in 1967, with Aebi reading 2500-year old anti-war texts by Lao Tsu. (4) Finally the powerful 1973 four-part anti-war suite, 'The Woe', with STEVE POTTS, KENT CARTER & OLIVER JOHNSON. This was previously issued on Quark LP 9998 and Emanem CD 4004. 74 minutes.
Excerpts from sleeve notes:
It is a disturbing fact that most of the major disputes throughout history have been settled by physical fighting involving killing. Have we really risen much above the rest of the animal world? On the contrary, many animals do not kill members of their own species even though they may fight. It used to be that battles were fought in a remote location between two armies that comprised a small percentage of the population. But let us not forget that military fighters, whether voluntary, conscripted or press-ganged, are human beings too. This mode of warfare culminated in the First World War, when millions of soldiers were killed in a puerile macho attempt to solve the differences between branches of the family that supplied most of the so-called royalty for European countries.
That cataclysm also saw the introduction of one of the most horrendous inventions of the 20th century, namely aerial bombing. This continued in 'peace-time' with the 1924 bombing of Iraqi villages and other rebellious parts of the British Empire. This barbaric practice reached its first nadir in the Nazi destruction of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War. Everyone, not just the military, became a potential casualty in the Second World War with its long list of cities devastated from the air – Coventry, London, Berlin, Dresden, Tokyo, etc, etc – culminating in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which had to be hastened when it was realised that the Japanese were already making approaches to surrender.
Perhaps the greatest density of aerial bombing occurred during the Vietnam War. People who subsequently flew over the remains of that country have reported that there are unbelievable numbers of bomb craters everywhere. That abortive invasion also involved the greatest use of chemical warfare, mainly Agent Orange and napalm which indiscriminately deformed people, animals and plants. It is therefore not surprising that millions of people throughout the world protested against this wholesale sub-bestial butchery.
Steve Lacy and Irene Aebi were amongst the protesters, their first musical protest being CHINESE FOOD using words by a Chinese writer who saw the futility of war some 2500 years previously.
We were doing protest music about the Vietnam War at that time. Everybody was saying, 'Johnson. Baby killer' and all that. So we were in WBAI and Irene was hurling these Lao Tsu texts about politics and weapons and things like that. It was like political music. The name of the piece we were doing was CHINESE FOOD. Texts from Lao Tzu, which illustrated the absurdity of war and weapons and things like that, were chosen.
STEVE LACY (1997 – interview with Lee & Maria Friedlander)
The use of the voice is somewhat similar to the Sprechstimme used in Schönberg’s PIERROT LUNAIRE, although this similarity was probably subconscious at the time. CHINESE FOOD was performed at the end of a period lasting over a year in which Lacy concentrated almost exclusively on free improvisation. It was also a time when he started performing with musicians from outside the jazz world.
CHINESE FOOD was a very important experience for me – the first real project I ever did improvising with electronics (or with anything else for that matter). I kind of date the beginning of my artistic life to that and one or two other projects around that time (e.g., MEV etc.), and think of Steve as my first and maybe main improv 'teacher'.
RICHARD TEITELBAUM (2011 – email)
The following year this trio recorded some different music in a different city. By this time Lacy had begun to write his collection of compositions that became the principal basis for his subsequent musical career.
THE WAY was the first song I wrote for Irene Aebi. When we recorded these two versions with Richard Teitelbaum in Rome ’68, there was only the melody. The harmonic and rhythmic structure took many more years to become clear. RT, IA and I played together quite a bit, in New York and Rome ’67 – ’68. He was the first musician to improvise on the first model of the Moog synthesizer – she was the first to sing Lao Tzu (Witter Bynner’s translation).
STEVE LACY (2000 – notes for first release)
Aebi’s matter-of-fact, yet heartfelt renditions of the song lead into some of the furthest out playing by Lacy and Teitelbaum on record. The two versions of THE WAY were recorded before the two duo IMPROVISATIONS at the same session. This CD uses the same editing, which was presumably directed by Lacy, as that on the original LP.
Around this time, Lacy formed a sextet in New York, and, shortly before the aforementioned trio performance of THE WAY, this group went to Hamburg (with Aldo Romano depping for Paul Motian). Among the pieces performed was THE SUN featuring a very positive text, written in 1948, that made this performance a reaction to the negative war. This performance is something of a tour de force for Aebi, who says it took her a year or two of practicing to get it together. It’s not the sort of text that one normally finds in jazz or any other music – although it could be considered to be a precursor of rap!
There were certain inspirations like Harry Partch, who set a hobo letter to music in one of his early pieces. When I heard that I realised that anything can be set to music, which gave me the impetus to try various things like Lao Tzu, for example. One of the first things I did was a Buckminster Fuller piece, a very dense piece that goes very fast. We set it like a priest’s litany in which a certain pitch is improvised.
STEVE LACY (1980 – interview with Jason Weiss)
This previously unissued first recording is considerably faster than the one made 22 years later and issued on ITINERARY (Hat Hut).
The piece called THE SUN has a very important text by Buckminster Fuller. It’s a litany, a technological litany, a very interesting piece. I think it came out very good, really. It’s hard to describe; it’s just like the sun. It’s really such an optimistic message, just shining like the sun, really. It was all written out, there were no solos, no improvisations. There was improvisation in the manner of delivery, but the elements were given.
STEVE LACY (1992 – interview with Ben Ratliff)
The Hamburg session also resulted in a performance of THE GAP by the quintet without Aebi. This can be described as a head arrangement or graphic score. A considerably different version by a different quintet was recorded four years later to become the title track of an LP on America (reissued as a Universal CD).
The Vietnam War was still being waged into the 1970s. Lacy responded by writing and performing THE WOE. This important suite is heard in its sole complete recording, although THE WANE was subsequently performed and recorded in isolation.
THE WOE is another story. Conceived in the horrors of the Vietnam War, it is a melodrama in four parts for quintet, two cassettes of war noises (air & ground) and voice. (The cassettes were played in the studio.) This piece was the principal music we performed during the last two years of the USA‘s involvement in Vietnam. This was the last time we played it. It was recorded (the night before the peace treaty was signed) in its entirety, and broadcast in Switzerland. I have no idea what the reaction was, if any. THE WOE is dedicated to Ho Chi Minh and all the people of Vietnam.
STEVE LACY (1977 – notes for first release)
Some commentators found this music ugly and horrible, but it is supposed to be a portrait of war – perhaps one of the most powerful portraits of that ugly and horrible activity.
Meanwhile, the killing goes on in ever more cowardly ways using high-flying aircraft or unmanned drones controlled from thousands of miles away. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya are bombed, whilst even more repulsive regimes are sold arms so that they can continue with the suppression of their populations. Some minor war criminals are assassinated or sent to the International Criminal Court, while major ones are left free to strut around the world stage.
Steve Lacy and Irene Aebi did their bit to try and change the world. (There was also the 1969 singing telegram NOTE on MOON on BYG/Sunspots.) Maybe this release of their most polemical work will help others see through the fog obscuring the realities of war.
MARTIN DAVIDSON (2011)
The interview quotes are taken from Steve Lacy Conversations edited by Jason Weiss (Duke University Press 2006).