All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

588

Steve Lehman Octet: Travail, Transformation, and Flow

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
On Travail, Transformation, and Flow saxophonist Steve Lehman continues down the creative path blazed on his previous release, On Meaning (Pi Recordings, 2007). In addition to updating the earlier session's rhythmic energy with even more audaciously contemporary beats, he presents the first jazz-oriented exploration of the musical concept known as spectral harmony.

In spectral harmony, prominent overtones are organized, with the help of computer analysis, according to frequency relationships rather than intervals, yielding striking new harmonies. Lehman advances the spectral music concepts initially developed by French classical composer Tristan Murail (who Lehman studied with at Columbia University in 2006) by adapting them for use in improvisation.

Along for the journey is an intriguing mix of established veterans, rising talent and relative newcomers. Tim Albright (trombone), Jose Davila (tuba), Chris Dingman (vibraphone) and Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet) are relatively new faces on the scene, with bassist Drew Gress, tenor saxophonist Mark Shim and drummer Tyshawn Sorey all veterans of varied experience.

A graduate of the M-Base school, Lehman's intricate writing is both rhythmically striking and harmonically advanced. Gress and Sorey make a tight rhythm section, with Davila's tuba adding an additional layer of counterpoint to shifting tempos and fragmented meters. Lehman's prickly structures allow Sorey to express his considerable skills behind the trap set, an aspect missing from his own highly regarded debut as a composer, That/Not (Firehouse 12, 2007). He unleashes thrilling break-beats on the careening miniature "Dub," the recoiling "As Things Change (I Remain The Same)," and the abstruse "No Neighborhood Rough Enough," fueling Shim's exuberantly circuitous tenor on the later.

A criminally under-rated saxophonist, Shim dovetails seamlessly with Lehman on the intro to "Rudreshm," providing rigorous counterpoint with knotty tendrils of melody. Gradually, each member of the octet enters, weaving a kaleidoscopic mosaic of interlocking harmonies and cantilevered themes until the piece climaxes in a brisk, regal march reminiscent of Henry Threadgill's Very Very Circus.

Lehman arranges the expansive voices of his acoustic octet to approximate the electronic effects of contemporary music. The microtonal harmonics produced by skillfully arranged horns on "Echoes" mimic electronic timbres, as Lehman's acerbic alto burns over pulsating chord changes. Providing brief respite, the cinematic dirge "Waves" invokes its namesake with an ebbing wall of lush sonorities.

Recalling Lehman's studies with alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, the epic "Alloy" conjures Blue Note's adventurous past. Lehman unfurls his most compelling solo of the session, ending the tune sans rhythm section in a circuitous, swinging cadenza with Finlayson.

The album concludes with a riotous instrumental cover of the Wu-Tang Clan's "Living In The World Today (GZA Transcription)," providing the missing link between experimental hip-hop and jazz. Visceral and innovative, Travail, Transformation, and Flow is a brave journey into the future of jazz.


Track Listing: Echoes; Rudreshm; As Things Change (I Remain the Same); Dubs; Alloy; Waves; No Neighborhood Rough Enough; Living In The World Today.

Personnel: Tim Albright: trombone; Jose Davila: tuba; Chris Dingman: vibraphone; Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Drew Gress: bass; Steve Lehman: alto saxophone; Mark Shim: tenor saxophone; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.

Title: Travail, Transformation, and Flow | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Pi Recordings

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Dirt...And More Dirt CD/LP/Track Review
Dirt...And More Dirt
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Locked & Loaded CD/LP/Track Review
Locked & Loaded
by John Kelman
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Long Story Short CD/LP/Track Review
Long Story Short
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Awase CD/LP/Track Review
Awase
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich CD/LP/Track Review
Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich
by John Sharpe
Published: May 26, 2018
Read My Singing Fingers CD/LP/Track Review
My Singing Fingers
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 25, 2018
Read "Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)" CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "Dirt...And More Dirt" CD/LP/Track Review Dirt...And More Dirt
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 26, 2018
Read "Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960" CD/LP/Track Review Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 1, 2017
Read "Spell" CD/LP/Track Review Spell
by Jim Worsley
Published: April 15, 2018
Read "Wherever You're Starting From" CD/LP/Track Review Wherever You're Starting From
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 8, 2018
Read "The Poetry of Jazz" CD/LP/Track Review The Poetry of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 20, 2018