Friday, August 14, 2015

Tenor Horn, Soprano Sax

Mr. Lacy, somewhere in Europe. In the mid-'60s, Steve went abroad and never really came back to the States, except to visit. Unknown photographer

No real story to tell about this offering, other than it showed up on eBay and nobody but your interlocutor bid on it (which means it went for a buck). I knew about this recording by a trumpet and horn player named Tom Stewart, but I'd never actually seen a copy. The reason I wanted it? Soprano saxophone pioneer Steve Lacy is featured throughout. There are very few sides of straight ahead jazz with Lacy, and I was curious to see how he sounded in a semi-hard bop context.

No surprise that Steve swings. He'd studied with classic jazz player and arranger Cecil Scott and had played extensively in traditional jazz bands with the likes of Pee Wee Russell, Pops Foster and Red Allen. What always did surprise me, given Lacy's history, was that his post-Cecil Taylor bands have always sounded dry and a bit academic (at least to me). And a little Irene Abei goes more than a very long way. So how Steve Lacy lost his swing is a mystery, but he sounds great here.

Tom Stewart? I have no idea. How did Creed Taylor decide to record him as a leader for the newly-launched ABC Paramount jazz label? We'll never know. Not that he's not an accomplished player and arranger. It's just that he seems to have come out of nowhere and then returned there immediately after this 1956 release. The tunes are familiar to jazz listeners, and there are no originals from Stewart, but he may have done the arranging. In the liner notes, he says he got a Bachelor's in English Lit, but then decided to switch to jazz horn playing. Clearly he was not interested in making money.

Anyway, here's his magnum opus, replete with Lacy and Herbie Mann for good measure. The sound was a little iffy in places, so I've cleaned it up a bit. I think you'll find the files acceptable – and musically of interest. From the actual vinyl, as always!

Tom Stewart
ABC-Paramount ABC-117
Stewart, ten hn; Steve Lacy, ss; Herbie Mann, ts, fl; Dave McKenna, p; Joe Puma*, g; Whitey Mitchell, b; Bill Bradley+, Al Levitt, d.
New York, NY; February 3, 1956. 

1. Rosetta
2. Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You
3. Let's Go Get Lost*
4. Out of Nowhere
5. My Heart Is a Hobo
6. Fidgety Feet
7. Spain*+
8. The Things I Love*+
9. Potatoes*+


  1. I posted a previous comment but it looks as though it did not take.Thanks for this.What happened to Tom Stewart?

    1. Not much is known, Doug. Tom Stewart died in 2005 in NYC, an "arranger, tenor horn and trumpet player, and music copyist," according to the NY Times. If somebody's working as a copyist, it means they aren't playing out all that much. Which is probably why you and I have never really heard of him since this record.

  2. When I think of Steve Lacy, it's always in regards to his great interpretations of Monk's music. Thank you for all your shares and wishing you and yours a great 2016!

    1. Ditto, drizzz. I read somewhere that Lacy was one of Monk's favorites when it came to other people playing Thelonious' music. The record Lacy did with Cherry has long been a favorite of mine. Lots of Monk on that one.

  3. I really, really like Steve Lacy, and of course he's prolific, that makes a fan like me (I think he swings!) have trouble keeping up. But this -- I don't think I could have ever found this. Thank you!

    1. Yeah, Steve was one prolific player! When I interviewed him a few years before his passing, he told me he thought he'd made more than 100 recordings over the years. I don't doubt it, but I bet he wouldn't have remembered this one!