|Steve Lehman Octet|
|Mise en Abîme|
Steve Lehman — Mise en Abîme
ςΞ° Steve Lehman (b. New York City, 1978) is a composer, performer, educator, and scholar who works across a broad spectrum of experimental musical idioms. Lehmans pieces for large orchestra and chamber ensembles have been performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), So Percussion, Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, the JACK Quartet, and the Talea Ensemble. His recent recording, Travail, Transformation & Flow, was chosen as the #1 Jazz Album of the year by The New York Times.
Location: New York
Album release: Jun 2014
Record Label: Pi Recordings
01 Segregated and Sequential 4:05
02 13 Colors 4:05
03 Glass Enclosure Transcription 5:08
04 Codes: Brice Wassy 7:46
05 Autumn Interlude 4:23
06 Beyond All Limits 4:47
07 Chimer/Luchini 7:02
08 Parisian Thoroughfare Transcription 2:33
ςΞ° Steve Lehman: alto saxophone, electronics
ςΞ° Mark Shim: tenor saxophone
ςΞ° Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet
ςΞ° Tim Albright: trombone
ςΞ° Chris Dingman: vibraphone
ςΞ° Jose Davila: tuba
ςΞ° Drew Gress: bass
ςΞ° Tyshawn Sorey: drums
About the Album
ςΞ° Mise en Abîme is the highly–anticipated follow–up to 2009s Travail, Transformation and Flow, by the Steve Lehman Octet. Described as a breathtaking accomplishment by The New York Times, Travail was widely hailed as a groundbreaking synthesis of spectral harmony and jazz improvisation. On Mise en Abîme, Lehman continues to build on his work with spectral harmony expanding the harmonic palette by incorporating live electronics and a custom–built vibraphone while at the same time reinforcing his connection to the jazz tradition with three radically re–imagined Bud Powell compositions. The result is an album that solidifies Lehmans status as a visionary composer with powerful new ideas about the future of harmony, rhythm, compositional form, and electro–acoustic improvisation in jazz.
ςΞ° The hallmark of spectral music is the shimmering, otherworldly sonorities that are created through the precise juxtaposition of individual instrumental voices. The most prominent overtones of a given sound source provide the framework for microtonal harmonies that are organized according to frequency relationships, rather than the intervals of a musical scale. Lehman studied under Tristan Murail the foremost proponent of the spectral aesthetic while earning his doctorate in music composition at Columbia University. Using spectral techniques, Lehman conjures novel and unexpected sounds that often evoke the iridescent sheen of electronic music. Most improvised music that employs microtonal harmonies is static and anchored by an unchanging drone or scale. But Lehman is unique in that he composes microtonal music with a great deal of harmonic movement, where a chord based on a harmonic spectrum can easily modulate to another tonal center. When used as a platform for improvisation, the result can be thought of as a kind of “spectral chord changes” for the soloist to negotiate and transform. Steve’s use of spectral techniques in jazz–inspired music is quite unprecedented, says Tristan Murail. Such fusion can sound clumsy or strained, but Steve’s music sounds very natural, very special, very personal.
ςΞ° Lehman has continued to grow as a composer/performer since the release of Travail in 2009. He is a recipient of the prestigious 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award an unrestricted $275,000 fellowship and has undertaken extensive research on rhythm cognition at Columbia and worked on interactive electronics as a research fellow at IRCAM, the world renowned electro–acoustic research center in Paris, France. Looking to expand the harmonic possibilities of his music for Mise en Abîme, Lehman had a vibraphone custom–built with alternate tunings: I knew it would force me into some new areas compositionally. And since this music involves so much microtonal harmony, you gain a great deal of fluidity when the main chordal instrument can actually execute those sonorities. According to pianist/composer Vijay Iyer, a frequent Lehman collaborator, Steve occupies a pivotal position at the intersection of a few different music communities: those bearing the labels jazz, new music and electronic music. He approaches this significant responsibility with care, humility and generosity. His music is simultaneously engaging and challenging, offering listeners abundant joy and unsettling mystery. His octet is one of the most innovative, virtuosic and thrilling working bands around today. This music is the future!
ςΞ° The octet is the same powerhouse ensemble featured on Travail: Mark Shim on tenor saxophone, Drew Gress on bass, Tyshawn Sorey on drums, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Jose Davila on tuba, Tim Albright on trombone, and Chris Dingman on vibraphone. It, too, has made a giant leap forward in the last five years: extensive touring has honed the band into a streamlined machine, one that is uniquely equipped to tackle this complex music and connect with audiences around the world. Lehman had the luxury of performing this music throughout the East Coast, including a five–night run at The Stone in New York City, just prior to entering the recording studio. ςΞ° As a result, the band buzzes with a visceral energy throughout Mise en Abîme, negotiating the albums unique challenges with aplomb.
ςΞ° Lehmans compositions combine his theoretical leanings with physical excitement. ςΞ° In Segregated and Sequential, microtonal harmonies splinter apart with stroboscopic effect, while the music speeds up, slows down, and stands still, all at once. 13 Colors presents two sets of spectral chord changes for Lehmans razor–sharp alto solo, before culminating in a cascading ensemble harmony. On Chimera/Luchini Lehman combines instrumental timbres with shadowy electronic underpinnings, creating a one–of–a–kind soundscape for Chris Dingmans vibraphone solo before morphing into Luchini by the hip–hop duo Camp Lo. Codes is a futurist tribute to the great Cameroonian drummer, Brice Wassy. And Beyond All Limits is a rough and tumble ensemble showcase thats thrown into relief by electronic textures that expand in real–time to conform to the rhythmic and harmonic structure of the piece.
ςΞ° The album is also an homage to Bud Powell and his legacy as a cutting–edge composer and conceptualist. Lehman reconstructs three Powell compositions, taking their basic harmonic framework and recasting them into a spectral domain. Jackie McLean was one of my most significant mentors, and Bud was one of Jackies mentors. ςΞ° And like me, Bud was someone who grew up in New York, spent a lot of time in France, and felt a connection to the French classical tradition. For him it was Frédéric Chopin. For me its Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisey. Its a thread of continuity that I felt was important to explore.
ςΞ° Balancing cutting–edge compositional techniques with a deeply–rooted understanding of jazzs historical lineage, Lehman takes another major step forward with Mise en Abîme: The title is really about being committed to the challenge of discovery and surprise in music, while also embracing your core identity as an artist and kind of accepting that youre really just rediscovering yourself over and over again. ςΞ° Its a kind of creative vortex that helps to keep everything in balance.
By KARL ACKERMANN, Published: May 28, 2014 | Score: *****
ςΞ° Composer/saxophonist Steve Lehman's credentials are as unique as his music. A Fulbright scholar with a PhD in composition, his on the job training has been at the hands of a diverse group of teachers including saxophone legends Jackie McLean and Anthony Braxton. A New York native, Lehman garnered widespread praise with the groundbreaking Travail, Transformation and Flow (Pi Recordings, 2009) and he returns with the same octet on Mise en Abîme. Lehman continues to apply a scientific approach to his ethereal compositions, studying the behavior of sounds and dissecting, restructuring and analyzing to the point where he has created something truly new.
ςΞ° Mise en Abîme is the aural equivalent of an optical illusion. The octet displays the same independent energy on this album that had made its forerunner so bracingly different though there is more synergy and cohesiveness throughout these eight hard–to–describe pieces. The opener, "Segregated and Sequential" is dominated by vibraphonist Chris Dingman and Lehman, but only to the extent that they set the stage for varied and desynchronized group improvisations. Trombonist Tim Albright, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson saxophonist Mark Shim and Jose Davila on tuba create a sound analogous to George Gershwin's taxi horn interstitial on An American in Paris. This type of effect is subtle but pervasive on Mise en Abîme. The brilliantly conceived "Glass Enclosure Transcription" creates the impression of the music being bounced off partitions, changing shape and texture in an attempt to escape its confines.
ςΞ° "Codes: Brice Wassy" constantly works its way toward a central theme but only hints at the existence of one as Lehman and Dingman play contrarian roles directing their respective signals in multiple directions. The moderate tempo of the piece accelerates and becomes more frenetic as Shim emphasizes the tension by forcefully breaking into the front line. "Autumn Interlude" incorporates elements of swing and hard bop as does "13 Colors" though it's not plainly evident given the off–kilter nature of the pieces. The closing piece "Parisian Thoroughfare Transcription" is the outlier in the collection with its bluesy feel and wordless vocals but there is nothing commonplace about the composition.
ςΞ° Though the pieces on Mise en Abîme have an odd organic feel to them, there are significant technical and perceptive developments leading to the end product. Lehman's unobtrusive — but effective — use of electronics and a specially designed vibraphone are some of the physical tools he employs along with an exceptionally cerebral approach to composition and open group dynamics. Where Lehman's passion for jazz quietly comes through is in the superb rhythm section of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tyshawn Sorey who are the glue that keeps consistency within these very abstract pieces. Mise en Abîme is an exceptional, complex but highly accessible work of art. :: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/
By Stefan Wood | Score: *****
ςΞ° Mise en Abîme is the latest effort by the Steve Lehman Octet, an uptempo, aural feast that is gripping from start to finish. A follow up to the excellent Pi album Travail, Transformation and Flow, the group, consisting of Mark Shim (tenor sax), Drew Gress (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums), Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Jose Davila (tuba), Tim Albright (trombone), and Chris Dingman (vibraphone) put forth their finest effort to date with eight blistering tracks that employ Lehman's studies into spectral harmonics and free jazz improvisation.
ςΞ° "Segregated and Sequential" starts off on a quiet note, a sax solo that then erupts into the full ensemble playing, establishing an off key theme that allows for individual soloing. Vibes are dominant, almost acerbic, but is also spatial and deeply powerful. Throughout the album it holds its own amongst the brass section. Lehman acknowledges the influence of the vibes from the Jackie McLean Blue Note albums with Bobby Hutcherson; Dingman's efforts are exceedingly fine and the sound is a key highlight in listening to the album. There are three tracks that are reworkings of Bud Powell tunes: "Autumn Interlude," "Beyond All Limits," and "Parisian Thoroughfare Transcription," the latter track an emotionally charged synthesis of Lehman playing piano, Powell himself being interviewed, a sample of Powell playing piano, with a sax soloing on top. "Codes–Brice Wassy" is another highlight, with Lehman/Shim and Dingman beginning with a moody duet, with Finlayson bursting in, replacing the vibes and engaging in a long solo, staccato like, and finally the others kick in, Sorey providing very active drums, vibes gently coursing through the beats and the horn solos, all very upbeat, the interplay of horns soloing and then locking in together as accents. "Beyond all Limits" is another high energy track. Sorey unleashes a frenetic backbeat, a storm in which again the vibes glides over as counterpoint. The horns all alternate, complimenting the drums with succinct solos, then deliver a well synchronized front section of rapid fire notes, alternating beats, accented by brief pauses. "Chimera–Luccini" features Sorey and Dingman, as the drums launch into high tempo gear, delivering a frantic pace, matched by an active vibe work, as they engage in a long duet. Horns kick in, going back and forth between saxes as they punch out an awesome theme on top of the rhythm section, vibes leading the way, horns accenting the beat and providing counterpoint.
ςΞ° Mise en Abîme rocks from start to finish, and should be considered one of the finest albums released this year. It gets my highest recommendation. :: http://www.freejazzblog.org/
|Steve Lehman Octet|
|Mise en Abîme|