One wonders why it took so long for this gem to hit the bins! Cliches by the “Steve Lacy Seven” was recorded in 1982 and newly released on the hatOlogy label. Here, Lacy performs three pieces, which were part of his repertoire during the 70’s along with other compositions of equal significance. The opener, “Stamps” boasts a large ensemble sound partly due to the excellent audio engineering by Peter Pfister who generally possesses the Midas touch and is without a doubt one of the finest and most respected recording engineers on the planet. Along with subtle yet intelligent injections of echo, reverb and an overall superb mix; sonorous harmonies, authoritative choruses and free flight soloing by alto/soprano saxophonist Steve Potts, trombonist George Lewis and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy seem larger than life. “Wickets” is based upon a somewhat abstract blues motif and is constructed around themes that could have easily been derived from Monk’s odd-metered rhythmic nuances as the pianist often integrated his glib, casual left-hand voicings into the recurring melodies and of course Monk’s influence on Lacy is well documented. Here, the soloists surge inward with casual, affable lines as free-improvisation gradually evolves in seamless fashion or similar to a slow – U-turn. Longtime Lacy bassist, Jean-Jacques Avenel stretches a bit towards the end of this piece yet provides a re-entry point for the ensemble to revisit the opening theme. Throughout this piece, we are enamored by the magnificent soloing and thematic construction by pianist Bobby Few, trombonist George Lewis and Lacy. The band go full-throttle on the hybrid free-jazz/swing piece titled, “The Whammies” as trombonist George Lewis produces rapid single note flurries with the grace and speed of a hot shot bop trumpeter.
The saga continues with “The Dumps” which features a linear swing-bop melody giving way to circular movement as everyone gets ample soloing space amid the overall thrust and highly charged momentum. The final composition, “Cliches” commences with dainty or soft African percussion while the ethnocentric marimba-like instrument subtly states the ensuing and recurring theme thus setting the panoramic view for this 22-minute opus. Highlights here are Irene Aebi’s passionate vocals, rumbling, forceful rhythms and climactic thematic invention.
Cliches is absolutely essential listening for fans of this brilliant soprano saxophonist-composer! Along with his two prominent 1999 releases, The Cry and The Rent Steve Lacy could conceivably capture three spots on various 1999 top ten lists. A moot or insignificant point? Perhaps, yet the indications are that of a world class musician who along with his estimable bandmates present the jazz world with 63-minutes of music magic as Cliches is yet another noteworthy addition to Steve Lacy’s distinguished recorded legacy! * * * * *
Steve Lacy; Soprano Saxophone/Composer: Steve Potts; Alto & Soprano Saxophone: George Lewis; Trombone: Bobby Few; Piano: Irene Aebi; Cello, Violin & Voice: Jean-Jacques Avenel; Bass: Oliver Johnson; Percussion: Sherry Margolin; Percussion on