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Steve Lehman Octet: Mise en Abîme

Martin Longley By

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It's been five years since Steve Lehman's last Octet album, so we're now voracious for more expanded material. Right at the start, his alto saxophone is briefly alone, and then the entire ensemble weighs in, earthy yet finely controlled. Chris Dingman's customised vibraphone is absolutely central to the sound of these Lehman originals, most of which are notably brief and pointed in their attack. At a mere 40 minutes, this is a very succinct jazz album, in the old-time way.

It might not be immediately apparent to the listener, but Lehman has taken the bones of three Bud Powell tunes, laying Spectral robes on them. Ultimately, the academic process still sounds like a naturally delivered gutbucket complexity. Mark Shim growls and the leader makes agitated squiggles, against the backdrop (or foredrop) of turbulent flow, punctured by sudden emphatic detonations. Dingman produces clouds of luminous vibes-dust, as "Glass Enclosure Transcription" is driven by a rugged Jose Davila tuba-line. This bracing nerd-funk is underpinned by the ceaseless scattering activity of Tyshawn Sorey, who still finds time to tinker way beyond the beat.

Doomy electro-clouds gather during "Autumn Interlude," with its dark Michael Nyman-oid pulse, Lehman and Shim gabbling a conversation in hyper-time. Now it's Drew Gress's turn for a potent bass rumble, topped by a nimble 'bone solo, with bonus electro-whorls. By the climactic stretch, they're all sounding somewhat like a futuristic reincarnation of the Count Basie band.

Track Listing: Segregated and Sequential; 13 Colors; Glass Enclosure Transcription; Codes: Brice Wassy; Autumn Interlude; Beyond All Limits; Chimer/Luchini; Parisian Thoroughfare Transcription.

Personnel: 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.

Title: Mise en Abîme | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Pi Recordings

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