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Steve Lehman Quintet: ArtificialLight

Altoist Steve Lehman, who recently replaced tenorman Aaron Stewart in Vijay Iyer’s Fieldwork trio, already has two CIMP discs under his belt. These two new efforts-recorded roughly five months apart-are both seven-track, all-original outings, but otherwise they’re as dissimilar as can be. Artificial Light, the more accessible of the two, features the 25-year-old leader with Mark Shim on tenor, Chris Dingman on vibes, Drew Gress on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. Interface is a far more abstract statement by Lehman’s Camouflage Trio, with Mark Dresser on bass and Pheeroan akLaff on drums.

The stuttering, enormously challenging rhythmic values of “Fumba Rebel,” which leads off Artificial Light, are reminiscent (but by no means imitative) of the post-M-Base school of obliquely funky, polymetric improvisation. Drums and bass establish the mood; Lehman enters not to steal the show, but only to loop the main structural line under Dingman’s solo. Subtle details like these make the session anything but ordinary. Shim, who acquitted himself brilliantly on guitarist Liberty Ellman’s Tactiles (Pi), lends a similar low-register heft to Lehman’s music, joining the leader on several meaty unison lines and blowing captivating solos. Gress and McPherson have no problem following Lehman’s demanding rhythmic logic, and Dingman gives even the most skeletal constructions the right amount of harmonic flesh.

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