Steve Lacy: Estilhaços Live In Lisbon

There’s no shortage of documentation of Steve Lacy’s early 1970s work, but that doesn’t make rediscoveries like this 1972 concert from Lisbon any less welcome. This show finds soprano saxophonist Lacy and his quintet in particularly combustible form. The performance was sponsored by a Portuguese radio station, which is acknowledged on the set’s opener, “Stations,” by Irene Aebi dialing up local stations on a transistor radio. A brief snippet of a haunting female singer is followed by the voice of an announcer heralded with a regal fanfare, echoed by Lacy and alto saxophonist Steve Potts pitched somewhere between Monk’s harsh angles and Albert Ayler’s ragged soulfulness. The voices and static emanating from the radio provide an element of turmoil that seems to throw fuel on the fire of the entire band.

Potts provides an anarchic foil throughout while drummer Noel McGhie offers an expansive rhythmic freedom, breathing with the collective improvisation. The suite cycling through “Chips,” “Moon” and “Dreams” showcases the breadth of the quintet’s abilities, beginning with Lacy and Potts’ spiraling bursts and Aebi’s sawing harmonica, underpinned by Kent Carter’s throbbing bass and McGhie’s rattling percussion. Potts launches into a solo that strains against the outer reaches of his instrument, followed by a questing, textural Lacy turn while Aebi’s cello weaves around Carter’s bass. Just two years before the outbreak of revolution in Portugal, Lacy and company seem to capture the tension, hope and unrest of their audience in the course of this remarkably urgent set.