Do you still identify yourself as an American composer? Steve Lacy

I am an American (New York City) composer/saxophonist/bandleader, and have lived abroad since ’65 (Rome, Paris, Berlin), with the exception of ’67 when my wife (Irene Aebi, singer and ex-cellist/violinist) and I moved back to New York, where we found the working situation worse than ever, and thereupon fled back to Europe and Rome in ’68.

Now things have vastly improved for us in America, and we have re-located in Boston, where I have a good teaching position at New England Conservatory which allows me to continue to travel, within certain limits, and pursue my performing and recording activities.

I have always felt that a musician must follow his music wherever it takes him, and I do whatever it takes to keep it going, without artistic compromise. I also believe that the music we make knows more about how it wants to be, and what it wishes to become, than we do and that it will make clear what needs to be done in order to maintain and improve its own qualities and nature.

There are advantages and disadvantages in every place and in each situation. My own music was promulgated in New York in the ’50s and early ’60s, further research was done in the Buenos Aires in ’66 and Rome in ’68-’69, but the real development and it’s early realization was accomplished from our base in Paris (’70-’02) were we also maintained a working group (quintet/ sextet/solo/duos/trio/larger ensembles), using more or less the same excellent players and traveling constantly and all over the world.

Finally, things started to dry up in Paris, and it was clearly the moment to repatriate (come home for me and move again for my Swiss wife). Boston seems like a good situation for us right now, but who knows when it will again become necessary to follow the music to somewhere else. I hope not for a few years, in order to establish a new base.

As for being an “American composer,” one’s origins are certainly interesting and perhaps significant, but destiny and fulfillment and the path and order taken by each artist is, to me, much more so. We all have our nature and its fullest possible realization must be the real goal.