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Steve Lehman Trio: Dialect Fluorescent (2012)

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Steve Lehman Trio: Dialect Fluorescent How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Decoding the music of saxophonist Steve Lehman has become a diversion for many a jazz listener (and critic). Sometimes composed with the help of programming software, his harmonies are meshed with mercurial rhythms. When played by his octet, his music gives the impression that it requires a scorecard to keep tabs on its perplexing complexities.

Then, come to think about it, a frustrated Cab Calloway
Cab Calloway
Cab Calloway
1907 - 1994
composer/conductor
in the 1940s described Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
's invention bebop as "Chinese music." While "Chinese music" might not be the preferred nomenclature this century, Lehman's music (like bebop), translates well with repeated exposure and when played in a context of traditional jazz covers, three of which are heard on Dialect Fluorescent.

Lehman's approach is an amalgamation of his studies with hard-bop master Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean
1932 - 2006
sax, alto
and his apprenticeship with jazz icon Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton
b.1945
reeds
. His work with these saxophonists reveals a brainy and brawny sound. Heard here in trio with drummer Damion Reid (whose credits include pianist Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper
b.1978
piano
, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa
Rudresh Mahanthappa
Rudresh Mahanthappa
b.1971
sax, alto
) and bassist Matt Brewer (saxophonist Greg Osby
Greg Osby
Greg Osby
b.1960
saxophone
, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Gonzalo Rubalcaba
b.1963
piano
), Lehman's approach is unveiled as a sort of thinking man's hip-hop. That is, if Philip Glass
Philip Glass
Philip Glass
b.1937
composer/conductor
played hip-hop.

The covers here are the Rosetta stone. John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
's "Moment's Notice" begins as an M-Base workout that doesn't reveal the melody until the end, but drops hints from the start. Like a very familiar line from a favorite movie heard out of context, the puzzle of Lehman's approach begins to coagulate. The group approaches "Jeannine" by Duke Pearson
Duke Pearson
Duke Pearson
b.1932
piano
in a straightforward manner, with Brewer's walking bass and Reid's brushwork leading into the melody that Lehman faithfully describes before dismantling it into his own language. Same for McLean's "Mr. E," a swift piece of hard bop.

The five Lehman originals then come into full light. Electronic informs but does not define his ultramodern approach. It is also assembled from modern classical and hip-hop without being classified as such. And no, it is not Chinese music either.

Track Listing: Allocentric (Into); Allocentric; Moment’s Notice; Foster Brothers; Jeannine; Alloy; Pure Imagination; Fumba Rebel; Mr. E.

Personnel: Steve Lehman: alto saxophone; Matt Brewer: bass; Damion Reid: Drums.

Record Label: Pi Recordings

Style: Modern Jazz


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