Steve Lehman: On Meaning (2007)
Even though saxophonist Steve Lehman is uncompromisingly his own composer, an airing of this quintet work can't help but call to mind his forebearers. The prominence of Chris Dingman's vibraphone prompts thoughts of a more wayward version of the Dave Holland Quintet, maybe closer to The Claudia Quintet in its rhythmically angular strikes. Then, Lehman is a rigorous technician who might superficially be viewed as somewhat cerebral, but upon deeper immersion displays a keen emotional expressiveness. This is reminiscent of the ways in which Anthony Braxton and Steve Coleman are perceived. Then there's the repetitive riffing with shifting slates of simultaneous patterning that evoke Ornette Coleman's Prime Time. Hurried, but not sweating.
Nevertheless, Lehman is already making massive strides towards establishing his own territory, if he hasn't already done so. A 2007 duo performance at New York's The Stone with trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson premiered a fresh set of striking compositions that melded both horns into a single beast, but often relying on each other jointly to complete a full phrase or solo. It's the same on this disc, as the horns joust above a billowing bed of vibes and bass, the latter provided by Drew Gress, an actual refugee from The Claudia Quintet. Tyshawn Sorey completes the lineup, his drum patterns often having more of a dialogue with the horns than the bass or vibraphone.
The players share, then swap roles, constantly redefining their place and orientation within the tune-frame. To mention another influence (this is still assuredly Lehman's music!), surely the composer has been listening to the controlled stuttering structures of Frank Zappa, or at least Edgard Varèse. This is the new Cool School (oh no, yet another precedent!)...
Track Listing: Analog Moment; Open Music; Haiku d'Etat Transcription; Curse Fraction; Check This Out; On Meaning; Great Plains Of Algiers; Process.
Personnel: Steve Lehman: alto saxophone; Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Chris Dingman: vibraphone; Drew Gress: bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.