Alto saxophonist Steve Lehman’s 14th release is jazz for those tired of rehashing the genre’s past and ready to “be here now,” as ’60s-era spiritual travelers were fond of saying. The People I Love is resolutely modern. With resourceful pianist Craig Taborn joining Lehman’s longstanding trio, the album is intriguing and evocative—and it swings like a thunderstorm, drenching you in the power and possibility of the universe.
Lehman has always been a cerebral composer with a bent toward math-jazz. Sometimes, brilliant though his compositions are, their sheer complexity has overwhelmed his trio’s soul and groove. Not here. As Taborn builds a subtle, strong foundation, Lehman, bassist Matt Brewer, and drummer Damion Reid lead the music down numerous improvisational rabbit-holes, each one more exciting than the last. This band came to play.