Steve Lantner: An Introduction

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The effect that I would like my music to have would be to have an audience dancing in the aisles, all the while with tears rolling down their cheeks. That hasnt happened yet.
Steve Lantner Steve Lantner's current run of creative output may be below the radar, but the quality of his recordings is off the charts. His debut as bandleader came in 1997 alongside longtime cohort/violist/violinist Mat Maneri in an adventurous set of duets that had Lantner playing both acoustic piano and a synthesizer set ninety degrees apart [Reaching (Leo)]. Lantner furthered his exploration of microtonalities on Voices Lowered (Leo 2001), where he played two pianos tune ¼ pitch apart alongside Joe Maneri and Joe Morris playing electric violins. Notably, the multi-talented Morris' first recording as a bassist—a debut Lantner prefers to take no credit for—came just one year later on Saying So (Riti, 2002).

A graduate of the Berklee College of Music and subsequent student of Joe Maneri's at the no-less-esteemed New England Conservatory, Lantner's What You Can Throw (HatOLOGY, 2007) sees the avant-garde pianist teamed again with drummer Luther Gray and Morris. On it—the Lantner/Gray/Morris trios third together—Lantner and co. perform the works of Anthony Braxton and Ornette Coleman as well as their own tunes, primarily at the suggestion of Hathut founder Werner Uehlinger. "[He] expressed an interest in hearing me play some compositions from musicians I admire," Lantner says. "I'm really glad that he suggested it, because it got me to do something I wouldn't have otherwise done."

This piece is titled An Introduction because Lantner's story clearly isn't written yet, with just five records as a bandleader under his belt. Undoubtedly there are plenty of fascinating releases to come. Lantner and I originally spoke in January of 2007, back when What You Can Throw was slated for a spring release by Hathut. With the record put on the back burner by the label so, too, was the interview. Lantner is both engaging and possessing of interesting insights.

All About Jazz: What was the recording process like for What You Can Throw? Did it differ from previous recordings in any way?

Steve Lantner: The biggest difference for this recording was that we did a few things with other peoples' music, so we had to devote a certain amount of time on those pesky things like not screwing up the head. The most challenging in this regard was Braxton's "Composition 23J," just because it's Braxton.

AAJ: When there is such a lag between when an album was recorded and when it is released, do you tend to forget about it? Are you constantly thinking about the next recording, next performance, or the next challenge?

SL: The delay between the recording and release of this CD coincided with a time in my life that saw a great deal of non-musical distractions, so to a certain degree my music was put on hold. I plan to use the HatOLOGY trio release as the much-needed motivation to get off my behind and get some gigs for my band.

In addition to this trio release, I have a live quartet recording (from Münster, January 2007) slated for release in the spring of 2008, and hopefully before year's end [saxophonist] Allan Chase and I will finally do the duo recording we've been talking about. In the interim, I've been focusing primarily on my piano playing, and trying to bring it to a higher level.

Steve AAJ: Describe if you can your relationship with Joe Morris, and Joe and Mat Maneri.

SL: Joe is a very good friend, and it is largely through his encouragement that I was able to incorporate all of my musical abilities into my playing. It was my experience playing with the Maneris that, due to their very personal vision, I had to limit myself to fit their sound. Joe Morris' attitude is, "Play it all. It's a much more enjoyable experience as a musician to feel like, if you can play something and you enjoy doing it, it must be valid to your artistry. It makes life that much simpler.

AAJ: With regards to Joe—the guy seems to be the man that everyone wants to work with. In the past couple years he seems to be popping up on all sorts of albums, including a handful of your own records. You've been working with him for years—do you take any credit in this resurgence in his popularity?

SL: Joe is one of the hardest working musicians I know, and I have the greatest respect for him. What I love about his bass playing is that it offers nothing but possibilities. He swings like mad, and is always listening and supporting. It is true that his bass recording debut was on my CD Saying So (Riti, 2002), but he's too fun to play with for me to take any credit for the demand he may enjoy.

What I very much look forward to is a chance to play more with Joe the guitarist. People have been focusing on his recent activity as a bassist, but he has a number of things coming out soon, including the release of a four-CD set of duets with Anthony Braxton that people will definitely want to hear.

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