Photo Credit: Richard Termine
Steve Lehman, a quietly dazzling saxophonist, is the stylistic progeny of at least two imposing modern-jazz masters, Anthony Braxton and Jackie McLean. In a string of potent albums he has shown a proclivity for intense improvisation, a taste for rhythmic entanglements with pianists and drummers, and a penchant for surrounding himself with like-minded performers. So the music Mr. Lehman makes must be jazz, right?
Not so fast. Mr. Lehman, a doctoral candidate in composition at Columbia University, is also a resourceful creator of intricately detailed contemporary classical concert works, some of which show the influence of teachers like Tristan Murail and Alvin Lucier. One, “Impossible Flow,” had its premiere during a concert by the International Contemporary Ensemble at Le Poisson Rouge on Tuesday evening, as part of the ensemble’s ICELab series.
Unlike many jazz-identified artists who have pursued formal composition as a distinguished sideline, Mr. Lehman, like Mr. Braxton, proposes a risky but intriguing syncretism. On “Travail, Transformation and Flow,” an astonishing album Mr. Lehman issued in 2009, you heard the sophisticated harmonic analysis of contemporary-classical spectralism fused to a killer rhythm section that played jagged beats derived from post-bop jazz, hip-hop and electronica.
That Mr. Lehman achieved a similar alchemy in “Impossible Flow,” commissioned jointly by the ensemble and the Manhattan New Music Project, was due partly to the performers’ improbable skill. It was a given that these musicians could handle complex harmonies and unpredictable rhythms; that they could improvise proficiently and make oblique figures swing was a small miracle.
To read the rest of "A Complex Jazzman, Informed by His Classical Side" by Steve Smith, visit the New York Times here!
Join us on Tuesday, May 31st for the final installment of ICElab 2011 @ (le) poisson rouge w/ Nathan Davis. To learn more, click here!