Arts & EntertainmentMusicPop & Hiss
Review

Steve Lehman Octet's knotty 'Mise en Abime' forges a new path

Columbia University
Steve Lehman's methods may seem complex, but his forward-moving sound speaks for itself

Typically, music is a lot easier to hear than explain. Consider alto saxophonist Steve Lehman. Holding a doctorate in composition from Columbia University, Lehman is a dazzling talent with a compact tone and expansive ambitions that created one of 2009’s most acclaimed albums, “Travail, Transformation and Flow.”

Built on a musical approach called spectral harmonies (“Otherworldly sonorities that are created through the precise juxtaposition of individual instrumental voices,” according to the album’s release -- sure, if you say so). Lehman’s methods may not be immediately easy to grasp on paper, but setting aside the back story, “Mise en Abîme” speaks for itself.

Lehman’s taut sound moves with a zigzagging clarity that can sound chilly, even futuristic, but the record’s blood is carried by drummer Tyshawn Sorey, who unleashes a small orchestra of rhythm under the octet’s every move. Framed by vibraphonist Chris Dingman and a sighing chorus of horns, “13 Colors” percolates atop Lehman’s twisting runs, and “Codes: Brice Wassy” begins with a murmur before taking wing atop rising star trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson.

“Autumn Interlude” carries the intricate pulse of late '90s post-rock before centering on a duel between Lehman and fellow saxophonist Mark Shim, and “Beyond All Limits” combines the breakneck pace of drum and bass with swerving horns that point toward an otherworldly next level of post-bop. Like much of the record, it sounds like something moving forward fast. No other explanation is really needed.

Steve Lehman Octet
“Mise en Abîme”
3.5 stars
Pi Recordings

Want to read more in 140-character bursts? Follow me over @chrisbarton.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
Columbia University
  • 'The music industry is not dying' -- Taylor Swift
    'The music industry is not dying' -- Taylor Swift

    Most of what Taylor Swift writes for public consumption ends up coming to us through ear buds or loudspeakers, but this week she has turned her attention from song lyrics about bad boyfriends to prose with an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. Her topic? The future of the music...

  • Perfume Genius sashays as he devastates a sold-out Roxy
    Perfume Genius sashays as he devastates a sold-out Roxy

    Wearing a loose-knotted black sweater that revealed his carved torso beneath, the pianist, singer and songwriter known as Perfume Genius sat before a whisper-quiet sold-out crowd at the Roxy in West Hollywood and tried to explain the raw, full-throated wail he'd just unleashed.

Comments
Loading