In performance and composition, Lacy explored the soprano saxophone’s technical and interpretive capabilities, pitting traditional jazz elements against the avant-garde to produce distinctive compositions of intervallic leaps and vibrant rhythms. He composed solo pieces and extended suites for ensembles of every size, from duo to big band, and made over 250 records.
Together with his wife, the singer Irene Aebi, Lacy created several hundred jazz art songs, many of them forming suites and cycles. The song texts, in original languages or English, French, Italian and German translations, are drawn from prose and poetry from around the world, including the works of Lao-tzu, Herman Melville, Samuel Beckett, Robert Creeley, Brion Gysin, and Marina Tsvetaeva. His larger-scaled theatrical projects involve dance, visual elements, and text. He was the author of Findings (1995), a study of the technique and materials of the soprano saxophone. He was awarded France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2002).
Lacy performed solo since 1972 and worked with a broad range of performers, including Thelonius Monk, Cecil Taylor, Gil Evans, Italian avant-garde rock musicians, Indian musicians, Jajouka Moroccan Groups, the Kronos String Quartet, and many dance companies.