Lacy’s legacy also includes his holistic approach to the arts — the vast store of modern poetry in French and English that he drew on, from Creeley and Brion Gysin and the Beats to Blaise Cendrars and Witter Bynner’s translations of Lao Tzu, but also his collaborations with visual artists and dancers. Chase: “He made the students think of themselves as artists rather than as people trying to get into the jazz-nightclub business.” For the composer and pianist Frank Carlberg, whose The American Dream (Red Piano, 2009) is a setting of Creeley’s poetry with Carlberg’s wife, Christine Corea, singing, Lacy was “a beacon,” his pieces for Aebi a demonstration that jazz songwriting could go beyond the lyrical styles of the Great American Songbook. “I really think he’s one of the most important figures in improvised music over the past 30 or 40 years. He did so much and had so many angles, and yet it was always him.”
Sinton remembers a typically succinct critique from Lacy when he brought in one of his own compositions and set it on the piano. Lacy looked at it, rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and said, “Yeah. . . . So what’s it about?” Recalls Sinton: “No one had ever asked me that in a composition lesson. So that was lesson #1 — that music should be about something.”
Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article the album Ideal Bread was noted as being self-released instead of being on the KMB-Jazz label. The correction has been made above.
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