During the '80s and '90s, most of the best jazz trombonists were inclined toward free jazz: Albert Mangelsdorff, Craig Harris, and Steve Swell, among them. Others, like Frank Lacy, straddled the fence between avant-garde and mainstream forms. Lacy has played with such free jazz paragons as Henry Threadgill, Oliver Lake, and Julius Hemphill, yet can also count Dizzy Gillespie and Abdullah Ibrahim among the prominent leaders for whom he's worked. Indeed, Lacy spent a year-and-a-half as music director for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and played with Bobby Watson's Horizon band, which says everything about his bop credentials. Lacy was born and raised in Houston, TX. He came from a musical family; his father was a teacher and a guitarist (he played with such musicians as Illinois Jacquet, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, and Arnett Cobb, among others), and his mother was a gospel singer. Lacy began taking piano lessons at the age of eight and took up the trumpet soon after. He played the euphonium and tuba in junior high school, and began playing trombone at 16. Before beginning his advanced musical studies in the late '70s, Lacy earned a university degree in physics. Lacy attended Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he met and jammed with Branford Marsalis, Greg Osby, and Marvin "Smitty" Smith. He later attended Rutgers in New Jersey. Lacy's first record as a leader was Tonal Weights and Blue Fire (Enja/Tutu, 1991). Lacy is also a capable section player; he's worked with big bands led by David Murray and McCoy Tyner, as well as Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy and the Mingus Big Band.