Dorsey/Norton/Samolis perform Steve Lacy’s Tips

photo: Matt Samolis

Tips is a song cycle composed by Steve Lacy in 1979 which sets short text selections from the notebooks of painter Georges Braque to music for voice and soprano and alto saxophones. For the saxophones, we’ve substituted flute and bass clarinet ’cause, well, it works for us. I’m particularly pleased by the combination of timbres and the possibilities for extending these given the improvisational proclivities of the performers.

Not really jazz, not really classical music, Lacy's song cycles (there are several) are “art songs” of another sort—usually pithy repositories of modernist wisdom, nearly always highly concentrated and concise, “casebook cantatas” as he describes Tips in his liner notes (reproduced below). In this instance, Lacy has selected instructive aphorisms for the benefit of artists. hence the title.

Performing are Noell Dorsey, soprano voice, Matt Samolis, flute and Steve Norton, bass clarinet.

Steve Lacy’s notes to Tips

The French text is a selection, from the notebooks of Georges Braque. These are aphorisms, speculations, observations, but especially, advice to himself as an artist, and to all other artists.

Braque’s sayings were an enormous help to me, in my own development, and as I kept repeating these things to myself, over a period of many years, they began to seem like little tunes.

Last year, I took 14 of these phrases, and set them, in a chosen order, for voice and soprano and alto saxophones. Illustrated by the improvised sections, the result is a sort of ‘casebook cantata’, and a working examination into the nature of free play, in this case between two saxophonists, but also about preparation and spontaneity, and of music and information.

Braque’s ‘Tips’ to artists can, of course, best be understood, in the context of his painting, somewhat related, also, to the work of Paul Cezanne, to whose memory this piece is dedicated.

Steve Lacy
September 1980, Paris

Noell Dorsey [ bio ]

Matt Samolis [ bio ]

Steve Norton [ bio ]

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