Saturday, August 31, 2019

Steve Lehman Trio Plus Craig Taborn - The People I Love (Pi-Recordings, 2019)

This is an inspired pairing, taking the Steve Lehman Trio which features the leader on alto saxophone, Matt Brewer on bass and Damion Reid on drums, and joining them on this album by the renowned pianist Craig Taborn. He fits in really well with the group, and they sound like an organic quartet rather than a trio with guest. The music the group makes is angular and fresh with Lehman seemingly taking cues from masters like Eric Dolphy and Arthur Blythe, but expanding them into a unique and personal sound signature. This is especially true when he is playing at high speed, when he emits flurries of notes at seemingly superhuman speed. However complex the music may be, it unfolds logically like on "Ih Calam and Ynnus" which follows a short opening prelude. The music twists and turns very quickly and the improvisation that the band conceives and expands upon is very impressive, making room for a sparking piano solo that takes the possibilities that are made available and uses that to mold a brisk and bracing performance, alternating depth charge comping with crisp single note runs and leading into a finely tuned bass feature. The following track, "Curse Fraction" allows the group as a whole to knead the space and time around them, slowly gathering their material and focusing their gaze with Lehman adding short bursts of saxophone each containing a lot of information coded within. Surprisingly gentle piano with soft bass and drums emerges, followed by the group reconvening in a tight and restrained full band improvisation. Kurt Rosenwinkel's composition "A Shifting Design" is a very exciting and fast paced track, introduced as a scalding saxophone and drums duet, sounding raw and immediate. Lehman has an acidic and biting tone on his horn that allows him to cut through just about anything, and Reid sounds uncharacteristically heavy here, really muscling the drums as they two come together and drive through and adding taught elastic bass to the mix to create a tight expressive example of what the trio is capable of. The longest track on the album is "Beyond all Limits," beginning with an excellent extended bass solo, with the remainder of the band coming in after about two minutes. Lehman plays raw and scouring saxophone leading to a lighter tone and a brisk and nimble soloing around the rhythm unit. The bright and supple playing of the piano, bass and drums team is very interesting, leading to the return of the leader who adds bursts of vibrant sound and volume, met by the remainder of the group in a thrilling dynamic response. "Echoes / The Impaler" keeps the pace high with riveting interaction between the saxophone and drums along with flourishes of piano and deep anchoring bass playing. The performance is dynamic and ever changing with excellent rhythm playing driving the changes, and allowing the sound of the improvisation to stretch out and find its own level. For this album, Lehman wanted to present his vision of the post-modern saxophone quartet and present ideas for future exploration. He and the group succeed in fine fashion in both of these goals, creating and album that is both accessible to jazz fans and inspirational to those who wish to go further. The People I Love -

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