Friday, July 04, 2008

Our politics suck but our tunes are good: Part 1

On Independence Day, which I normally celebrate only by drinking a few extra beers, I'm going to try something new: being thankful for many of the great things about this nation. Fortunately, my real passion is one of those things, so I'm going to write about a few excellent, excellent musicians from this country whose music I've beheld in the last few years. I've also enjoying another of those things, our swimming dynasty--the US Olympic Trials have been covered quite well online by NBC. But on to the music:

Steve Lehman
Wowzers. This guy can play (alto sax). He's also a doctoral student in composition at Columbia. I remember visiting their comp program for a seminar, and he had brought in a recording of Ornette Coleman's orchestral works. Really different stuff. Lehman incorporates microtones into his exceptionally quick and dissonant lines, and his compositions' metric structures are often nearly impossible to figure out--he's an example of extreme complexity working very well. The media is eating him up, too, because he's bringing all kinds of new stuff into the jazz world. Check his myspace or lastfm for full tracks.

A couple weeks ago I heard him with Dual Identity, a group co-led by fellow alto player Rudresh Mahanthappa, at The Stone. The other cats were Damion Reid on drums, Matt Brewer on bass, and Liberty Ellman on guitar. The group was incredibly tight and the tunes were dark and groovy. I could have used a little more dynamic variation--they tended to go full force much of the time--but that was about my only real criticism. Mahanthappa and Lehman are both phenomenal saxophonists, but they both have such different sounds and improv styles, so they're a good pair. They'd often play close intervals very low on the instrument, which was a really neat sound and something I hadn't heard much of before. The group is recording their first album next year, so we'll have to wait around for that.

Check out Fieldwork, his group with Tyshawn Sorey and Vijay Iyer. His quintet releases are quite good as well, and apparently he'll be doing some gigs with what I think is a new octet this fall.

I'll do these reviews in separate installments, so next time I'll continue with this (for me, unusual) patriotic music appreciation.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Okay, so this is a case when I begin to be suspicious of someone--he's got a successful performing career going, a bunch of great releases out, AND in addition to that Lehman has to get a PhD in composition?? Leave a little piece of the pie for someone else, man!

What's the suspicion, you ask? Well...maybe he's an android, or partly bionic (i.e., injected with musical and creative super-genes).

But besides this nonsense, I agree that the NYC underground jazz scene is a cardinal reason to be a patriot--it's one of the only reasons I am!