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 Speechless CD/LP/Track Review Speechless
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Holiday On Fire CD/LP/Track Review Holiday On Fire
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Calvins Toboggan CD/LP/Track Review Calvins Toboggan
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Silent Light CD/LP/Track Review Silent Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 27, 2017
Read PausaLive CD/LP/Track Review PausaLive
by Patrick Keyes
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Adam's Apple CD/LP/Track Review Adam's Apple
by Greg Simmons
Published: April 26, 2017
Read "The Expanding Universe" CD/LP/Track Review The Expanding Universe
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 8, 2016
Read "First Set" CD/LP/Track Review First Set
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 29, 2016
Read "Day By Day" CD/LP/Track Review Day By Day
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: January 16, 2017
Read "Romance 76" CD/LP/Track Review Romance 76
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 11, 2016
Read "Binary" CD/LP/Track Review Binary
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 19, 2016
Read "2nd Thoughts" CD/LP/Track Review 2nd Thoughts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 8, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

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!