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Steve Lehman: Grooving Not Repeating

By Published: February 21, 2005

SL: Pheeroan teaches at Wesleyan, so I came into contact with him that way, and was immediately blown away by his music and his creativity. I met Mark Dresser through a recording of Kevin Norton's that we both played on, and of course Mark's work as an instrumentalist and a composer is pretty extraordinary. I think we first performed as a trio in 2001 at Wesleyan University and then did some shows in New York as well. The recording we did in Portugal came at the end of a short European tour and I was very pleased with the group sound that we had developed at that point.

AAJ: Is this new recording with Pheeroan and Dresser your first?

SL: Yes, it's the first recording we've done together.

AAJ: Why did you elect to release this live recording versus a studio project?

SL: It just kind of ended up that way. And it made the most sense for the label, Clean Feed, to record the music that way. Because the music is so much about the interaction between the three of us, doing a live recording seemed like a natural way to document the music.

AAJ: Do you work on sopranino more with Camouflage and why?

SL: The sopranino is an amazing instrument, but the context has to be correct. I've used it with almost every group I'm a part of at this point. I don't play it on Artificial Light , but it's also featured on one of the tracks on the new Fieldwork CD, Simulated Progress.

AAJ: How did working with the Fieldwork project come together?

SL: Vijay Iyer called me in October of 2003 and asked me if I'd be open to filling the saxophone chair in the group. I really loved the groups first CD with Aaron Stewart, and had of course been admiring Vijay and Elliot Kavee's work for some time, so things took off pretty quickly.

AAJ: Please enlighten us regarding the compositional elements of that band.

SL: The basic idea, since I joined the group has always been to develop material collaboratively, and to work on music that we would never be able to realize in any other context. And that can have to do with music that is extremely demanding on a technical level, but it can also have to do with music that comes alive because of a highly refined group aesthetic that we work on over the course of many months, and in the case of our last CD, a year.

AAJ: What's next for Fieldwork ?

SL: We recorded a new CD for Pi Recordings in September of 2004, and will be on tour in Europe in May 2005 in support of that album. Elliot Kavee decided to leave the group at the end of 2004, so Tyshawn Sorey will be filling the drum chair, and contributing as a composer as well, which everyone is very excited about. There are plans to do a West Coast tour as well as more dates in Europe, so we'll have to see what comes to fruition in 2005.

AAJ: Fieldwork's and your own music are linked by the common fantastic and "new" kineticism in the unfolding of the music. Please take a shot at where Fieldwork will share most in your rhythmic concept, and where your rhythmic concept might be better applied to your own projects.

SL: That's a difficult question to answer in any kind of satisfying way. Speaking in very broad terms, the work I've done with Fieldwork has tended to deal with very specific problems and conceptual materials, both rhythmic and otherwise. In my own band, I might address one compositional concept or collection of concepts over the course of several pieces. Each piece on the new Fieldwork album is truly a world unto itself, though I find there's also a great deal of continuity through out the record, and from the band's first record to the second; most likely having to do with what was more often than not a very rigorous rehearsal process.

AAJ: Care to shed any light on the transition in the sax and drum chairs for Fieldwork? For instance I know you've worked with Braxton and Andrew Hill and so as Aaron Stewart. Now you're succeeding him in this context

SL: Well, Aaron has certainly worked much more closely with Andrew than I have at this point, but I do think that there's a good deal of common ground and common interests between someone like myself and Aaron or Elliot and Tyshawn. There are a lot of parallels in terms of the types of people we have worked with as you point out. Aaron, Vijay, Elliot, Tyshawn - these are all amazing musicians with highly unique compositional voices, who have demonstrated both technical virtuosity and the capacity for truly original and creative abstract thought. It's a real honor to be associated with this circle of musicians.

AAJ: Will we see a release from your project with Rudresh Mahanthappa, called "Dual Identity" anytime soon? Will this be only duo saxophone or is there a band approach as well?

SL: My hope is that Dual Identity will be able to record a duo album in 2005. We have a book of compositions for quintet, but more recently we've been focusing on the duo. We recently did a concert at Tonic that was pretty exciting.

AAJ: Please try to impart concept of Dual Identity and what you're trying to impart to the listeners.

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