10

Steve Lehman & Sélébéyone: Sélébéyone

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
Steve Lehman's critically acclaimed albums have been topping national polls for more than half a decade. It's all the more an achievement when considering Lehman's unique, cerebral and ever-changing approach to artistic creation. His most recent project, Sélébéyone takes its name from this new group that Lehman founded in 2015. It incorporates elements of spectral music—where compositions are influenced by sound waves and mathematics—rap, hip hop, electronics, and of course, jazz. The overall vibe, however, jazz rap/hip hop.

The live marriage of jazz and hip hop or rap (they're not necessarily the same) is not a new one. More than twenty years ago a rapper named Guru went to work with a band that included Branford Marsalis, Lonnie Liston Smith, Donald Byrd, Roy Ayers and others. The resulting album, Jazzamatazz, Volume 1 (Chrysalis Records, 1993) cracked the top twenty-five on Billboard's list and spawned three successors. Even before that time Miles Davis tinkered with hip hop beats on his final album, Doo-Bop (Warner Bros., 1992) and Gil Scott-Heron laid even earlier foundations with the jazz oriented backgrounds to his overtly political poetry. What Lehman has done with Sélébéyone takes the entire evolution from West African to points beyond.

Sélébéyone (the group) is cross-cultural and, like Lehman, not pinned down to static musical interests outside of this project. New York's Kyle Austin (aka, HPrizm) had previously been known as "High Priest" when he was a founder of the rap trio Antipop Consortium. That group had made a pioneering effort in jazz rap with Antipop vs. Matthew Shipp (Thirsty Ear Recordings, 2003). Senegalese native Gaston Bandimic supplies raps in the Wolof language which dominates a number of West African countries. The septet is filled out with the highly visible bassist Drew Gress, drummer Damion Reid, Carlos Homs on piano and keyboards and long-time Lehman collaborator, saxophonist Maciek Lasserre.

The lyrics on Sélébéyone don't shy away from social commentary or spirituality. On the opening "Laamb," HPrizm raps, ...From flooded streets I was brought up/Now in this era facing the ramifications/Of blocks to the occupation/As bars over propaganda/They criminalize the victim.... Translated from Wolof, Ndoye invokes on "Are You In Peace?," ...Wake up mad at everybody, today is hate/Don't ask me what it is, not worth it/ No peace today, it's evil's habit.... Brief tracks such as "Akap" and "Geminou" place a more focused light on the use of electronics, from Reid and Homs, as they intermingle with HPrizm and Ndoye's words. "Cognition" is a perfect fusion of jazz and hip hop beats, leading up to dual raps that are both spatial and transcendent.

Sélébéyone is a Wolof word that roughly translates to a joining point where two elements result in a new and unique element; it's not a new concept for Lehman but this album is cutting-edge in its own right. Lehman's alto and Lasserre's soprano build and disassemble intricate rhythms, serving as acoustic DJs to the spoken word. The latter component adds more direct tension than Lehman typically serves up but that's a good thing as it sets parameters for another new vernacular from a composer who already speaks in tongues. Jazz purists, and even some more exploratory listeners, may have to open their ears a bit wider with Sélébéyone, but it will prove well worth it. Lyrics—with translations—can be found at: http://www.stevelehman.com/selebeyone.

Track Listing: Laamb; Are You In Peace?; Akap; Origine; Cognition; Hybrid; Dualis; Geminou; Bamba.

Personnel: Gaston Bandimic: vocals; HPrizm: vocals; Steve Lehman: alto saxophone; Maciek Lasserre: soprano saxophone; Carlos Homs: piano, keyboards; Drew Gress: acoustic bass; Damion Reid: drum set.

Title: Sélébéyone | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Pi Recordings


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Dedication CD/LP/Track Review Dedication
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 21, 2017
Read Surface of Inscription CD/LP/Track Review Surface of Inscription
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 21, 2017
Read The Treasury Shows, Vol. 24 CD/LP/Track Review The Treasury Shows, Vol. 24
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 21, 2017
Read Aleka CD/LP/Track Review Aleka
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 21, 2017
Read Alto Gusto CD/LP/Track Review Alto Gusto
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 20, 2017
Read Flow CD/LP/Track Review Flow
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: November 20, 2017
Read "Chrome" CD/LP/Track Review Chrome
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 11, 2017
Read "The Late Set" CD/LP/Track Review The Late Set
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 14, 2017
Read "Roll On" CD/LP/Track Review Roll On
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 25, 2017
Read "Danse" CD/LP/Track Review Danse
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 7, 2017
Read "Ella Lives" CD/LP/Track Review Ella Lives
by Chris Mosey
Published: April 21, 2017
Read "A Sleepin' Bee" CD/LP/Track Review A Sleepin' Bee
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 3, 2017

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!

Please support out sponsor