281

Eugene Lee: Meditations

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
Eugene Lee: Meditations Jazz musicians have showed a sporadic enthusiasm for meditation: experiments by John Coltrane (and Alice Coltrane), Pharoah Sanders and Keith Jarrett spring to mind, as does the clarinetist Tony Scott's quixotic Music for Zen Meditation (Verve, 1964)

The music on these records focuses either on the nirvana-like state to which meditation practitioners could aspire after years of practice—such is the connotation of the Japanese woodwinds that accompany Scott on his Zen record, for example—or the vigorous journey toward enlightenment, as in Coltrane's case.

In joining this line of jazz meditators, saxophonist Eugene Lee sought something different. "I wanted to capture the mind of the meditator in all its different incarnations," he writes, "from the serenity that is commonly associated to the word, to the various degrees of turbulence that are involved in the search for mental clarity."

He's certainly got the "turbulent" part down pat. Loop-like melodic fragments played on saxophones or the flute, electronically distorted, echoed and repeated, overlapping and interlocking, suggest the chaotic state of the beginning meditator's mind. "Immortality" is particularly unsettling in this respect; it is followed by the slightly calmer "Meditation," in which the repeated elements both suggest a calming mind and resemble phenomena like breathing or bells softly tolling.

This is challenging music, drawing deeply from experimental electronic sources and minimalism, that effectively communicates the experience of the meditator. The key drawback is that the listener could be left unaware that Lee is a fine jazz improvisor in the robust, energetic manner of Roscoe Mitchell, as his borderline-free début recording Srivbanacore (Pure Potentiality, 2007) made clear. We can be grateful, thus, for the unaccompanied alto number "Locus," which shows off these gifts and also hints at an emerging clarity in the spiritual searcher's mind.

The record concludes with a piece that employs the same motifs—repeated phrases, electronic echoes—but less jarringly and with less distortion than on earlier tracks. Entitled "Candles," it is a fitting musical coda but not the achievement of enlightenment. Perhaps, nevertheless, the seeker has caught a glimpse of what Zen Master Ejo called the "treasury of light."

Track Listing: Immortality; Meditation; Conscience; Nightmare; Locus; Candles.

Personnel: Eugene Lee: alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Ben Stepner: piano (4); Robin Betton: upright bass (4); Brent Raskind: drums (4).

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Pure Potentiality Records | Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde


Shop

More Articles

Read LifeCycle CD/LP/Track Review LifeCycle
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Right Up On CD/LP/Track Review Right Up On
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Wanderlust CD/LP/Track Review Wanderlust
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Imagination CD/LP/Track Review Imagination
by Geannine Reid
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Evolution CD/LP/Track Review Evolution
by Greg Simmons
Published: April 23, 2017
Read On A Monday Evening CD/LP/Track Review On A Monday Evening
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "The Volume Surrounding the Task" CD/LP/Track Review The Volume Surrounding the Task
by John Eyles
Published: July 6, 2016
Read "Sounds of 3" CD/LP/Track Review Sounds of 3
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 18, 2016
Read "A Room of One's Own" CD/LP/Track Review A Room of One's Own
by Ian Patterson
Published: August 10, 2016
Read "Alba" CD/LP/Track Review Alba
by John Kelman
Published: June 10, 2016
Read "Eastern Smiles" CD/LP/Track Review Eastern Smiles
by Ian Patterson
Published: August 21, 2016
Read "Anatta" CD/LP/Track Review Anatta
by Budd Kopman
Published: June 3, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!