Dijkstra came to study at NEC the year Lacy joined the faculty, so the coincidence was something like a dream come true. Dijkstra says that one of the things that inspired him about Lacy's music was that — while other jazz players and composers might base their work in the strictly musical terms of chords and scales, or the abstractions of spirituality or of pure sound and shape — Lacy's music seemed made a connection with "the elements of daily life." He points out that "Ducks," also on the Whammies album, comes from Lacy's experience practicing on the shores of a duck pond. (The piece is basically one short phrase that really does quack.)
"His material has a simplicity to it, which makes it very strong," Dijkstra says. On one rainy day, Lacy taught Dijkstra the tune "Rain," from the "Precipitation Suite," which also includes the tune "I Feel a Draft" (on the Whammies album) and "Cloudy."
"He's got this 'rain' scale, which is six or seven notes. And for some reason it sounds rainy, I don't know why. You play those notes and you think, 'Yeah, it's a little bit sad. A little watery.' It's a pentatonic scale with two extra notes. It sounds a little Phrygian, a little meditative, like you're watching a rainstorm on your front porch. I really like that kind of stuff. It takes you away from the scales and chord changes that most jazz musicians are obsessed with."
Lacy also wrote hundreds of songs (usually sung by his wife, Irene Aebi), sometimes setting music to poetry (Robert Creeley was a favorite), sometimes adding little mantra-like phrases after the fact ("The Dumps," "No Baby," "As Usual"). Lacy's tendency to attach music to words or to physical observation, as well as his dedications, remind me of a story Sinton told me about Lacy's reaction to one of his pieces: "What's it about?," Lacy asked. Sinton said he had never considered that a piece of music should be about something.
The Whammies :: Lily Pad, 1353 Cambridge St, Cambridge :: January 26 :: 8 pm :: $10 :: lily-pad.net