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Take Five With Steve Lehman

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Steve Lehman:

Named a Rising Star on the alto saxophone in 2006, 2007, and 2008 by the Down Beat Magazine International Critics Poll, Steve Lehman is a saxophonist and composer whose work resides on the frontier of contemporary music. He has been recognized as one of today's truly original creative voices by The Wire, The New York Times, and Down Beat Magazine, as well as by National Public Radio and the BBC. A former student of both Jackie McLean and Anthony Braxton, he has performed and recorded throughout the United States and Europe with his own ensembles, and with those led by Anthony Braxton, Dave Burrell, Meshell Ndgeocello, Mark Dresser, Vijay Iyer, Oliver Lake, and High Priest of Anti-Pop Consortium.

An award-winning composer, Lehman's pieces for large orchestra and chamber ensembles have been performed by the Janacek Philharmonic, The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), So Percussion, members of the Argento and Wet Ink Ensembles, and by the pianist Marilyn Nonken. His electro-acoustic music, recently showcased in Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and New York, has focused on the development of computer-driven models for improvisation, based in the Max/MSP programming environment. In 2003, as a Fulbright scholar in France, Lehman was invited to teach a weekly undergraduate course on current trends in improvised music at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris. Since the fall of 2006, Lehman has been a doctoral candidate in Music Composition at Columbia University, where he is a departmental fellow and teaches in the Music Department.

His most recent recordings as a leader include On Meaning (Pi 2007), with his critically acclaimed quintet, Door (Pi 2008) with the collective trio Fieldwork, Manifold (Clean Feed 2007), Demian as Posthuman (Pi 2005), featuring Tyshawn Sorey and nine-time Grammy-nominee Meshell Ndegeocello, and Interface (Clean Feed 2004), featuring Mark Dresser and Pheeroan AkLaff.


Alto and sopranino saxophones.

Teachers and/or influences? Saxophone Teachers: Eugene Cantera, Duncan Martin, Jimmy Greene, Anthony Braxton, Jackie McLean, and Claude Delangle.

Composition Teachers: Anthony Braxton, Alvin Lucier, Jay Hoggard, Jackie McLean, Fabien Levy, George Lewis, Tristan Murail.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I heard Charlie Parker's music for the first time.

Your teaching approach: Try and help each student achieve a greater understanding of what it is about music that is most exciting to him/her.

Favorite venue:

Casa de Musica in Porto, Portugal. Barbes in Brooklyn, New York.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Travail, Transformation, and Flow, because it's the most recent (June 2009 Release).

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Homecoming: Live at The Village Vanguard, by Dexter Gordon.

Did you know...

My spouse, Olivia Newman, is an accomplished filmmaker, currently getting her M.F.A in Writing/Directing in Columbia University's internationally acclaimed Film Department.

CDs you are listening to now: Cannonball Adderley, Live in Paris 1960;

Grachan Moncur III, Evolution (Blue Note);

Genius/GZA, Liquid Swords (Warner Bros.);

Johannes Brahms, Horn Trio (Chandos);

Ornette Coleman, Skies of America (Atlantic).

Desert Island picks:

Andrew Hill, Smokestack (Blue Note);

Jackie McLean, It's Time (Blue Note);

Gerard Grise, Les Espaces Acoustiques (Kairos);

Charlie Parker, Summit Meeting Live at Birdland;

Alexander Scriabin, Prometheus.

What is in the near future? May 22 & 23: World Premiere of "Baltimore/Berlin" by The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) in New York City at P.S. 122.

June 8: Record release concert at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City, for the release of Travail, Transformation, and Flow (Pi 30) the new album from the Steve Lehman Octet.

Fall 2009: Debut release from Dual Identity, the quintet co-lead by Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman and featuring Damion Reid, Matt Brewer, and Liberty Ellman.

Spring 2010: World premiere of a new work for chamber ensemble comissioned by the Internaional Contemporary Ensemble.

By Day:

I am a departmental fellow in the Music Department at Columbia University.

Photo Credit

Scott Friedlander


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