Laced with life

Besides his musicianship, Frank Lacy is one of the most colorful and eclectic members of the jazz fraternity.

frank lacy 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
frank lacy 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
You could probably count the number of trombonists who have lead jazz outfits on one hand. The names JJ Johnson, Slide Hampton and Curtis Fuller (who starred in the 2006 Jerusalem Jazz Festival) come to mind, and Israel's own Avi Lebovich - and that's about it. Wait a tick, there's Frank Lacy, who headlines tonight's installment of this year's Performing Arts Center jazz series in Tel Aviv. And it looks to be the liveliest of the season so far. Besides his musicianship, Lacy is one of the most colorful and eclectic members of the jazz fraternity. There hardly seems to be a musical genre to which he hasn't contributed. Lacy's jazz repertoire stretches from the earliest forms of ragtime, through Dixieland, swing, bebop, fusion and funk. On top of which you can throw in the blues, gospel, avant-garde, classical, rock and roll, pop, afro-beat, rap, new age and hip-hop for good measure. "I've always played different styles," Lacy says in a telephone interview from Spain where he is touring prior to his one-gig visit here. "But, I like jazz the best, because it's the hardest to play," he states. Lacy grew up in Houston, Texas listening to all the contemporary sounds on the radio. He dug R&B in particular. "I listened to them all and I went to lots of concerts," he says, adding, "I just loved the rhythm and the fact that the music was so alive." The 46-year-old has certainly paid his jazz dues. He studied at Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music and has shared the bandstand with some of the greats, like trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, drummer Art Blakey - as part of Blakey's long running Jazz Messengers ensemble (which, for several years, also included Fuller) and maverick trumpeter Lester Bowie's off-the-wall Brass Fantasy, of particular note. Add to all that a stint with top-selling pop duo The Eurythmics, singer Elvis Costello and the Boston Symphony Orchestra and you get an idea of just how far Lacy stretches his musical tapestry. But, for Lacy, music is just music - and nothing more. "I don't get into the jazz versus classical music thing, for example," he declares, "It's all music and you don't have to differentiate between the different styles and genres. That's not important. It's like what Duke Ellington said. There are only two kinds of music - good and bad." Lacy also says he got a lot from working with his venerable colleagues. "I learned so much from Art [Blakey]. He spoke in parables and you have to break it all down before you got what he was saying. When I started with him I asked him how I should play. He said I should play like an old man, with the wisdom of an old man. That worked for me." Lacy spends much of his time in Europe both touring and living - and not by chance. He explains, "I think, in some ways, Europeans are more open than Americans. For instance, you see trombonists leading bands in Europe more often than you do in the States, and they are more receptive to different musical ideas." Mind you, there have been advantages to play second fiddle over the years. "[Chicago-based jazz magazine] DownBeat once called me the best sideman in jazz. Not being leader can give you the chance to play different types of music with greater freedom. All styles need a trombone." Lacy will be accompanied this evening by pianist Orrin Evans, bass player Radu Ben Judah and drummer Donald Edwards. Tickets to see the Frank Lacy Quartet tonight, Friday, are priced between NIS 115 to NIS 199. For more information and to purchase tickets call the Israel Opera, located at 19 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard, (03) 692-7777.