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How can a disc with Steve Lehman, Meshell Ndegeocello, Tyshawn Sorey and Vijay Iyer go wrong? Demian as Posthuman clocks in at a short, sweet 37 minutes and is essentially a series of sax/drum duets with variations on the same theme (electric bassist Ndegeocello and drummer Eric McPherson are on three of twelve cuts, Iyer on only two). While it aspires to a jazz/funk/fusion blend, it's only moderately successful, despite the heavyweight players.
"Vapors finds Lehman blowing his impatient alto over the rhythmic stylings of Sorey and Ndegeocello, with electronic flourishes added by Jahi Lake, Iyer elegantly holding down the fort. "Demian, the nominal title cut, might have been better without the overuse of electronics. The acoustic version of "Damage Mobility features Lehman's solo alto being enhanced electronically as he plays outside the box, mixing straight blowing with his own effects.
On the extended version Sorey joins him for an electronically enhanced, overdubbed duet that features his singular percussive highlights. "CognitionoCurtis Duncan and "CognitionoDrew Hill are also restless alto/drum duets. "LogicoMeshell brings the jazz/R&B diva into the fold to deepen the music and give it another direction. Ndegeocello lays down some wicked bass and Lehman and Sorey are rock solid, but the electronic effects by Jahi Lake are more of a distraction than an enhancement. The brooding "LogicoTyshawn is arguably the best cut, Lehman's hiccupping alto meshing with Sorey's edgy drumming.
In the case of "CognitionoHaywood Jeffires, the electronics actually serve to give the tune more depth, instead of being effects for effects' sake. "Emphonic is Lehman's tour de force; he programs the drums and picks up the sopranino sax for an impassioned solo effort. Everyone comes together at the end for the appropriately titled "Community (with McPherson, not Sorey, on drums). This cut is a cycle of repeated phrases, with the rhythm section going through the motions as though they recognize that their playing is secondary to the concept itself. Demian as Posthuman, which seems so promising on the surface, is ultimately disappointing.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.