Bar code: 8427328421867
The quintet on "Artificial Light" began performing together in August of 2002. Each member of the group has developed a truly innovative approach to his instrument, while maintaining the ability to navigate and transform complex compositional structures.
Mark Shim (Elvin Jones), Drew Gress (Fred Hersch) and Eric McPherson (Jackie McLean - Greg Osby) are among the busiest performers in New York at the moment, in large part due to their ability to combine technical virtuosity with abstract thinking. The vibraphonist, Chris Dingman, is a former student of Steve Lehmans and one of the few musicians in New York capable of handling the demands made upon the chordal instrument by the music on "Artificial Light".
Each composition on this CD is intended to create a fresh and original framework for small group interaction. In some cases, this goal is achieved through the use of meter that is constantly shifting with each measure. In other cases, it achieved through the rethinking of traditional instrumental roles.
"Altoist Steve Lehman, who recently replaced tenorman Aaron Stewart in Vijay Iyer's Fieldwork trio, already has two CIMP discs under his belt. these two new efforts ("Artificial Light" on Fresh Sound New Talent and "Interface" on Clean Feed) - recorded roughly five months apart - are both seven track, all-original outings, but otherwise they're as dissimilar as can be. "Artificial Light", the more accessible of the two, features the 25-year old leader with Mark Shim on tenor, Chris Dingham on vibes, Drew Gres on bass and Eric McPherson on drums.
The stuttering, enormously challenging rhythmic values of "Fumba Rebel," which leads off Artificial Light, are reminiscent (but by no means imitative) of the post-M-base shcool of obliquely funky, polymetric improvisation. Drums and bass establish the mood; Lehman enters not to steal the show, but only to loop the main structural line under Dingman's solo. Subtle details like these make the session anything but ordinary. Shim, who acquitted himself brilliantly on guitarist Liberty Ellman's "Tactiles" (Pi), lends a similar low-register heft to Lehman's music, joining the leader on several meaty unison lines and blowing captivating solos. Gress and and McPherson have no problem following Lehman's demanding rhythmic logic, and Dingman gives even the most skeletal constructions the right amount of harmonic flesh.
A back-to-back listen to (Lehman's) two (new) albums gives one a clear picture of Lehman's versatility and depth. His sideman resume is impressive (Anthony Braxton, Dave Burrell, Oliver Lake, Kevin Norton), but with "Artificial Light" and "Interface", Lehman stands to gain recognition as an emerging heavyweight."
David Adler -Jazz Times
"There have been some quiet rumblings about the young Steve Lehman. The New York alto saxophonist won Downbeats award for best alto saxophonist under 21 in 1997 and has studied under the sax greats Jackie McLean and Anthony Braxton. His recent associations with his contemporaries include bassist Mark Dresser and pianist Vijay Iyer, with the trio Fieldwork. In his mid-twenties, he plays and sounds beyond his years, but what is really interesting lies in the intensity and progressiveness that make Artificial Light a gem of a slightly different color.
The balance of instruments and talented players, along with Lehmans unique compositional arrangements, make for an interesting and unconventional outing which includes elements of freebop, swing, and modern jazz. The music for the most part consists of odd cadences, repeating riffs, and aggressive solos that work well within the framework of Lehmans ideas.
On the opening track, Fumba Rebel, Lehmans alto repeats a staggered pattern as Chris Dingman lays down a lengthy vibe solo. The addition of the vibraphone adds coolness to the music and Dingman proves to be a most capable player. The under recorded and lush voice of tenor saxophonist Mark Shim are profound as he brings his trademarked lower register sound. Lehman and Shim are like minded horn players and create memorable horn interaction on the intricate Alloy.
Veteran bassist Drew Gress is superb; his skilled presence is felt throughout the entire recording and his solo on the soothing Estelle Teams is a testament to his talents. The hippest piece goes to the stellar Freestyle which incorporates excellent solos, a groovacious alto/tenor horn arrangement, and vivid drum work by Eric McPherson.
While maybe not for everyone's taste, there is a special character to the recording which is laced with dreams of jazz's past but more importantly visions of jazzs future in the fertile mind and horn of Steve Lehman. Recommended."
Mark F. Turner -All About Jazz
"Conventional wisdom dictates that playing jazz comes at least as much from life experience as it does the conservatory, a tenet so associated with jazz that misguided players in the '50s began taking heroin to simulate Charlie Parker's experience. The drugs-give-you-soul days have more or less passed, but the mystery of what connects heart to horn is no closer to being resolved than it was in Bird's day.
Steve Lehman might be the exception that proves the rule that only years can give you what technique won't cover. At 25, he has no business being the player and the bandleader that he is. He studied with Anthony Braxton and Jackie McLean and his associations range from Oliver Lake to Me'Shell NdegéOcello, with a close working relationship with pianist Vijay Iyer, so perhaps a breadth of experience can help where longevity is lacking. Either way, his quintet album, "Artifical Light", is a remarkably thoughtful and enganging record, closer perhaps to the McLean tutelage than the Braxton. The compositions are intelligent without losing heart to head, extended without wandering off course. With the paired saxophones of Lehman and Mark Shim and Chris Dingman's vibes, the melodies are assured and out front, while bassist Drew Gress and drummer Eric McPherson keep a steady back line."
Kurt Gottschalk -All About Jazz
New York City printed edition
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