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Steve Lehman: On Meaning

The work of young alto saxophonist Steve Lehman is a study in complexity and contrasts. “Study” is the operative word here. Lehman approaches his music as an intellectual-he’s a doctor fellow at Columbia University, after all-but he doesn’t show off. His compositions are asymmetrical-sections do not repeat, so toss the head-solo-solo-solo-head form out the window-and his playing is thoughtful and reserved. Still, he can find the groove.

Lehman is familiar to us through his work with the exciting bassless trio Fieldwork. On Meaning finds him in a more ambitious setting; his quintet includes trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, vibraphonist Chris Dingman, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. The guys had a tough task here. Rhythmically and melodically, these are difficult tunes. Harmonically, they are often uncomfortable. Lehman does like his contrapuntal chords.

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