Saxophonist Steve Lehman's 12th release as a leader/co-leader and his second one with an octet Mise en Abime is a cohesive work of intriguingly cerebral and dramatic nature. Like the title implies there are concepts that repeat, amplify and fade in the process of constructing and deconstructing the main themes of the album.
On "Codes: Brice Wassy" vibraphonist Chris Dingman's sparse, deeply resonant strikes buoy Lehman's brisk and pensive alto that serves as an intro to this exquisitely composed piece. Trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson's clean, burnished tone echoes and embellishes the refrains of the ensemble out of which it emerges with graceful agility. Finlayson bows out to Lehman who adds a vibrant lyricism as he leads the group in a provocative interpretation of the melody. Tenorist Mark Shim expands seamlessly on Lehman's harmonic ideas in a spontaneous monologue, as the ensemble improvisation grows delightfully chaotic around him.
This superb camaraderie among the band members is much more than a showcase of technical prowess. Together they imbue the record with a raw passion and haunting mysticism. "Chimer/Luchini" features Dingman's mallets' crystalline cascade tumbling mesmerizingly over bassist Drew Gress's elegant reverberations and drummer Tyshawn Sorey's thrilling thunderous beats.
Similarly on the complex and captivating "Autumn Interlude," the rhythm trio's percolating rumble alternates with the brass section's spirited vamps and the saxophonists' ardent, angular extemporized duet. Trombonist Tim Albright's and tubist Jose Davila's bottom heavy sound makes for a stimulating contrast with Lehman and Shim's nimble, acerbic rapid-fire phrases. Solemn bells conclude the track on a contemplative note.
The restless and explorative "Glass Enclosure Transcription" opens with Finlayson blowing high his bright horn over darkly hued textures. Albright and Shim alternate gritty, growling soliloquys as Dingman's bars shimmer through the beguilingly murky sonic melee. Finlayson, Shim and Albright engage in a thoughtful conversation that unravels the fabric of the tune "clearing" the way to Lehman's intense and intelligent solo.
This multilayered and challenging disc is uncompromisingly intellectual yet surprisingly accessible. It makes for a uniquely rewarding and enriching listening experience and is a testament to Lehman's ingenious creativity and superlative musicianship.
Segregated and Sequential; 13 Colors; Glass Enclosure Transcription; Codes: Brice Wassy; Autumn Interlude; Beyond All Limits; Chimer/Luchini; Parisian Thoroughfare Transcription.
Steve Lehman: alto saxophone, electronics; Mark Shim: tenor saxophone; Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Tim Albright: trombone; Chris Dingman: vibraphone; Jose Davila: tuba; Drew Gress: bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.
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