Steve Lacy/John Heward


mode avant 04

Live In Montreal


Avant 04 Steve LACY/John HEWARD: Recessional for Oliver Johnson, Live Montreal 2004 – Steve Lacy, soprano saxophone and John Heward, drums, African bells, kalimba.

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Live In Montreal

Live Montreal 2004

Recessional (for Oliver Johnson)   (38:53)
Steve Lacy, soprano saxophone
John Heward, drums, African bells, kalimba

This live concert is perhaps one of the last recordings from soprano saxophone legend Steve Lacy.Lacy and percussionist John Heward first met in Paris in 1975. Though they remained in regular contact through the years, they did not actually play together until this concert in Montreal on 20 June 2003. Two months later Lacy was diagnosed with cancer, and died in June 2004.Lacy suggested to Heward that he wanted to end this improvisation with the motif Recessional for Oliver Johnson, as a tribute to Lacy’s long-time drummer. The motif appears toward the end of this set-long piece, and lasts until its conclusion.

This concert was recorded at the “Souno per il Polpolo” festival at the Sala Rosa in Montreal, Canada.

With this release, Mode reactivates its Mode/Avant series, created to explore interesting recordings of music outside of the scope of Mode’s basic new music repertoire.


Steve Lacy and John Heward
Recessional for Oliver Johnson

Mode avant 04

Culmination of a 20-year friendship, Montreal drummer John Heward’s and American soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy’s first – and last – duo concert is preserved on this CD. A less-than-39-minute bagatelle, Recessional gains added poignancy due to Lacy’s death from cancer a year later.

It’s fitting that the live show honored Oliver Johnson, long-time drummer in the saxophonist’s Paris-based sextet. For Heward, a renowned Canadian painter and sculptor, has recently evolved into an avocational percussionist, proficient enough to play with improv masters like multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee and violinist Malcolm Goldstein.

Sensitive yet sturdy, Heward’s duple meter rumbles, cymbal slaps, press rolls and drum-top pitter patter provide the perfect backdrop for Lacy’s improvisations, which after all are the main draw here. Unobtrusive, he fluidly marks tempo and timbre changes along with the saxophonist.

Lyrical and polyphonic with a suggestion of both “Taps” and tap dancing, the main theme is the finale of the concert. Repetitive, melancholy and celebratory, it culminates in an emphasized, echoing split tone from Lacy.

Earlier, the saxophonist, who first defined the soprano’s role in modern jazz, displays his matchless technique. He produces a wide, almost Dixieland-like vibrato at times, and straight, sharp clipped tones elsewhere. Flutter tonguing, double-tonguing and reverberating his body tube, his collection of quacks, snarls and growls is second to none. Yet never do these narrowed, nasal pitches or spit-encrusted obbligatos fail to communicate. Jittery reed-biting textures plus rubato tongue-stopping surround concise story-telling phrases. Meanwhile, the drummer uses bell ringing, kalimba scrapes and press rolls to underline and extend the multiphonic interface.

Never to be repeated, the CD faithfully captures a moment in time.
— Ken Waxman, CODA Issue 330, January 1, 2007

Steve Lacy and John Heward
Recessional for Oliver Johnson: Live In Montreal 2004

Mode Avant 04

Soprano saxophone legend Steve Lacy was diagnosed with liver cancer two months after this Montreal concert with Canadian drummer/improviser John Heward. He passed away in 2004 and this impressive, compelling performance is one of his final recordings. With airy lines and fragmented swing vamps, the duo generates a chain of give and take dialogues. They embark on a safari of African-style rhythmic expositions, supplanted by Heward’s use of African bells and kalimba. At times Lacy’s maneuvers are marked by shrieks and moans. The duo navigates through the one lengthy track with intense conviction, but periodically take matters down to a near whisper. The lack of a bassist enables the listener to zoom in rather closely to the free-spirited exchanges played throughout. Lacy’s rich legacy surges onward with the release of this disc.
— Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz, January 2007


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