The Holy La

LABELS: Freelance
PERFORMER: Steve Lacy (ss), Jean-Jacques Avenel (b, kalimba), John Betsch (d), Irène Aebi (v)


The days are past when we could expect a new Steve Lacy record every month, but if he’s no longer quite so prolific in the studios, the soprano specialist remains an inquisitive, endlessly evolving spirit in the jazz of two centuries. Two continents, too: he has recently traded his long-standing Paris base for a return to America.

This Euro-American trio is an old firm by now, and as he remarks, ‘we can perform difficult pieces and yet take many liberties’. There are several familiar chips from a huge block of composing here: ‘Flakes’, ‘Cliches’ and ‘The Door’ are vintage Lacy motifs, cunningly simple but open-ended enough to provide fresh turnings every time he takes them up.

The title piece, dedicated to the A, ‘the pitch we all tune to’, is also a dedication to Leonard Bernstein. Avenel and Betsch provide pushy, swinging accompaniments of the sort which the leader relishes, even as he patiently unfolds his solos at his own exquisitely methodical pace; and Irène Aebi sings Steve’s lyrics on a couple of tracks.


Despite all the flannel talked about jazz’s ‘new directions’, the really new things are still being said by masters such as Lacy, steeped in their own history while thinking only about the future. Richard Cook