At the end of 1980, the late Steve Lacy expanded his group to a sextet with the addition of pianist Bobby Few. His first recording with this new configuration was Songs, a 1981 collaboration with poet/painter Brion Gysin, best known for his work with William Burroughs.
Lacy and Gysin had worked together as far back as '69, and their rapport is evident here. Lacy states in an interview with Jason Weiss (from Duke University Press' forthcoming anthology Conversations) before the album's release that "all the music comes out of the words. So the tunes act as a support for Gysin's lyrics, and many create a Kurt Weill vibe with the way the music mimics vocal intonations. Lacy again, in the same interview: "Well, jazz is speech rhythms.
That becomes quite clear on the infectious opener "Gay Paree Bop, where Lacy's soprano and Steve Potts' alto saxophones imitate Irene Aebi's muscular, operatic tone with unerring accuracy. The lyrics, a string of bouncy nonsense rhymes, become secondary to the manner in which they're spoken, as well as the musicians' reaction. Once she ceases, though, Potts and Lacy take bright and energetic solos, and Few offers a glittering glissando after a rambunctious solo turn of his own.
Then the album turns social realist with "Nowhere Street, opening with two soprano saxophones harmonizing on a mournful melody. Aebi displays her range, echoing the saxophones with a high-pitched wail as she documents the decaying state of a city. Then she picks up her violin, and duels with Few's piano to create the most dissonant depressive tones they can think up. The notes tell a story of their own.
The rest of the album is just as imaginative, aside from the derivative Beat spoken word of "Permutations. "Somebody Special is a lament in swirling lines about the search for love, "Keep the Change a surreal staccato jaunt about a break-up, and the supremely silly (and catchy) "Blue Baboon documents the secret yearnings of giant primates.
Track Listing: Gay Paree Bop; Nowhere Street; Somebody Special; Luvzya; Keep the Change; Permutations: Junk is No Good Baby, Kick That Habit Man, I Don't Work You Dig; Blue Baboon; Nowhere Street 1.
Personnel: Steve Lacy: soprano saxophone, voice (9); Steve Potts: alto & soprano saxophone; Bobby Few:
piano; Irene Aebi: violin & voice; Jean-Jacques Avenel: double bass; Oliver Johnson: drums;
Brion Gysin: voice (4,6-8).
I was first exposed to jazz in 1961 (at age 10) when I was in a shopping arcade in Southport, England with my parents. I fell in love with the music playing over the PA system; Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet
I was first exposed to jazz in 1961 (at age 10) when I was in a shopping arcade in Southport, England with my parents. I fell in love with the music playing over the PA system; Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. After going through Rock 'n Roll, the Beatles and Heavy Metal/Hard Rock phases over the next eight or so years, I finally bought my first jazz album; We're All Together Again for the First Time by Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan. I was hooked on jazz, and still am 40+ years later.
I moved from England to the USA in 2002, and founded the Brookfield Jazz Society in 2005.
I became editor of the quarterly IAJRC Journalin 2012. The magazine goes to the worldwide membership of the IAJRC (International Association of Jazz Record Collectors) and many major libraries and educational establishments around the world.
As well as being the editor of the IAJRC Journal, I write about jazz and review CDs, vinyl, DVDs and books on jazz.
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