Steve Lacy, one of the greatest soprano saxophonists of all time and a New England Conservatory faculty member since fall 2002, died Friday [June 4th, 2004] at New England Baptist Hospital. The jazz master who once defined his profession as “combination orator, singer, dancer, diplomat, poet, dialectician, mathematician, athlete, entertainer, educator, student, comedian, artist, seducer and general all around good fellow” was 69. He leaves his wife and collaborator, the Swiss singer Irene Aebi.
Born Steven Norman Lackritz in New York City, Lacy was the first avant garde jazz musician to make a specialty of the soprano saxophone--an instrument that had become almost completely neglected during the Bop era. Indeed, he is credited with single-handedly bringing the instrument back from obscurity into modern music of all types. He regularly received awards from DownBeat Magazine as the premier soprano saxophonist and in 1992 received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant. In 2002, he was made a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. A prolific recording artist, Lacy is represented on many labels including Universal, Senators, RCA, Verve, Label Bleu, Greats of Jazz, EMI, CBS/Columbia, and Denon.