Recorded live at the August 1977 Willisau Jazz Festival and at a February 1978 concert at Jazz Au Totem, in Paris, the double CD Stamps is noteworthy and distinctive for two reasons. Firstly, it features one of saxophonist Steve Lacy's more impressive groups, his quintet with Steve Potts on saxophones, Irene Aebi on cello, violin, bells and voice, Kent Carter on bass and Oliver Johnson on drums, all long-serving stalwarts of the group.
Secondly, this album was one of Lacy's first to be released on the Swiss Hat Hut label, which eventually issued well over twenty Lacy albums. For decades, the combination of Lacy and Hat Hut was practically a guarantee of great music. Issued, in 1979, as a double LP, Stamps has never been reissued on CD by Hat and, hence, became much sought after on vinyl. So, grateful thanks to Corbett vs Dempsey for this reissue, especially as a previously unissued eleven-minute track from Willisau has been added to the seven original album tracks, the eight tracks here running for just over eighty-six minutes.
As so often, all of the tracks are Lacy compositions. These generally open with a deceptively simple melodic phrase to get things going before it is used as a basis for improvisation; such simplicity is also in evidence in Lacy's one-word track and album titles. Aebi's distinctive vocals only feature on the opener, "Existence", after which her cello or violin is part of the ensemble. This quintet does not favor the head-solos-reprise model of jazz, instead opting for a freer approach in which solos criss-cross, interweave and overlap, creating a thrillingly unpredictable soundscape. That is typified by the interactions between the saxes of Lacy and Potts; rather than taking turns to solo, they are more likely to both play at once, complementing one another to produce lines that fit together and work as a totality, such empathy being evidence of their years together. The nearest the album gets to a conventional solo is an unaccompanied bass interlude on "The Dumps", which demonstrates Carter's prowess and receives rapturous applause. But, rightly, the final ovations for the entire group are greater still. A collective triumph that it is very welcome back.
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