Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy's The Beat Suite is an ambitious attempt to set beat-era poetry by some of the genre's most iconic progenitors to Lacy's idiosyncratic jazz stylings. Featuring the vocals of Lacy's wife and longtime collaborator, Irene Aebi, the group also includes George Lewis adding counterpuntal touches on trombone, bassist Jean Jacques Avenel, and drummer John Betsch. While fans of such beat writers as William S. Burroughs, Robert Creeley, and Jack Kerouac may find this interesting, the real success of The Beat Suite rests largely in the listeners' interest in hearing Aebi. An acquired taste even by avant-garde standards, Aebi often sounds like a cross between Jessye Norman and Nico. Compositionally, the songs follow Lacy's serpentine, atonal logic often sounding something like Gerry Mulligan's pianoless quartet in bizzaro world. Thankfully, the poems are included in the liner notes, as it is sometimes hard to focus on them with all the jazz going on. Not for everyone, but longtime Lacy fans should dig it.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar