Steve Lacy: The Holy La (2004)
The selections on the first half of the CD are all less than five minutes each, and the trio makes its statements tastefully and succinctly. The tone of the title track is yielding and Lacy plays in a relaxed fashion as the music sways, while the individual notes on “Flakes” fall like dry snow caught in the gentle throws of a breeze. The tracks get longer with “The Wane” as Jean-Jacques Avenel’s bass holds down the beat with resonant echoing notes and Lacy’s horn moans long and low like a dying siren.
“Clichés” features Avenel on the sanza, a.k.a. kalimba or thumb-piano. John Betsch’s jungle drums persist in the background and Lacy’s part is sinuous and snaky. Vocalist Irene Aebi (Lacy’s wife) guests on two tracks, the more successful of which is “Retreat,” where she sings in her native French and her vocalizing becomes a more natural component of the music. Avenel’s beautifully bowed solo takes off from the original melody and prompts a song-within-the-song, with Lacy’s horn turning almost flute-like. Betsch’s dramatic splash of cymbal ends the track with a flourish.
The Holy La is filled with nervous blues, contrasting textures, and emotional depth. It’s wonderfully recorded, with crisp highs and warm lows in a spacious and airy environment. The music is twisty, with serpentine melodies, its circular nature at times creating a feeling of claustrophobia. You’re not always sure the musicians are going to get out, but they do every time, and you begin to breathe a bit more confidently. The effect is tense, dramatic, and ultimately, very rewarding.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Track Listing: 1. Shuffle Boil 5:32 2. The Holy La 4:13 3. Inside My Head 4:48 4. Blue Jay 3:43 5. Flakes 5:50 6. The Wane 8:58 7. Clich
Personnel: Steve Lacy - Soprano Sax; John Betsch - Drums; Irene Aebi - Vocals; Jean-Jacques Avenel - Bass.
Style: Modern Jazz