The improvisational style of Steve Lacy: analyses of selected transcriptions (1957-1962)

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Neil Lewis Ostercamp (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Steven Stusek

Abstract: This document investigates and draws conclusions regarding the improvisational style of Steve Lacy between 1957 and 1962 based on improvised solos from the albums Soprano Sax, Reflections, and Evidence. His improvisational tendencies are inspected through detailed analysis of transcriptions. Specifically, his melodic and harmonic approach, tone (timbre, articulation, tessitura), and use of rhythm will be unpacked. Lacy is widely considered a leading force in jazz improvisation, and yet there are no comprehensive studies of his style. He is often referenced because of the rarity of his instrument, and not the unique character of his improvisation. Due to the vast amount of musical output, only the early part of Lacy’s career will be considered. My objectives include the gathering of biographical information, transcription and analysis of selected solos during the given time period, and the formulation of conclusions that give a clear definition of Lacy’s playing style based on melodic and harmonic approach, use of rhythm, and tone. Melodic and harmonic approach includes the explanation of voice leading, chord-scale relationships, and musical vocabulary. Use of rhythm will be examined through swing feel, phrasing, and recurring tendencies. Tone is described based on musical elements such as timbre, articulation, and tessitura. During the given time period, Lacy’s improvisational style is consistent in regard to melodic and harmonic approach, tone, and use of rhythm. Despite the fact that his career as a solo artist was in its infancy, he had already established a personal style. In terms of melodic and harmonic approach, Lacy demonstrated frequent use of diatonic melodic ideas, repetition, and alternation between chord outlines and linear patterns. In regard to tone, frequent articulation, predictable phrase length, and low to mid-range tessitura is heard. Lacy’s rhythmic approach favors behind-the-beat eighth-note placement, frequent use of quarter-note melodic lines, and repetition of rhythmic patterns. This document will provide a detailed analysis of three selected transcriptions as well as a description of similarities that were discovered.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Jazz, Lacy, Saxophone, Transcription
Lacy, Steve
Improvisation (Music)
Saxophone music (Jazz)

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