Steve Lehman = Math-jazz?

A recent musical discovery in my world has been Steve Lehman, young saxophonist who’s doing some interesting things with the music (thanks to Sekhar for the tip!).  His most recent recording, Travail, Transformation and Flow is an octet recording, using computer techniques to shape the compositions (you can get a taste of a couple tracks at the link).  Here’s how the Washington City Paper review by Michael J. West put it:

On the disc, Lehman uses a jazz application of “spectralism”: a French school in which composers begin with a note on a given instrument, use a computer to analyze the spectrum of tones that make up that note, then orchestrate all of those tones on different instruments to create new harmonies. The physical acoustics and the musician’s attack on the instruments help determine the nuances within the tonal spectrum, but timbre is the primary element of spectral harmony.

In an interview from a few years back, called ‘Grooving not Repeating’ at All About Jazz, Lehman talks about his college experiences at Wesleyan (my alma mater):

In college and graduate school I was working mostly with Anthony Braxton, Jay Hoggard and Jackie McLean, over at the Hartt School of music. I also studied with people like Alvin Lucier, Ron Kuivila and Pheeroan akLaff, while doing my best to take advantage of the performance courses in South Indian and West African musical traditions that were offered at Wesleyan. It’s hard to sum up the importance of the 6 years I spent at Wesleyan and even harder to know how much of it had to do with the fact that I was functioning within an academic environment.

I think it’s safe to say that when I arrived at Wesleyan as a freshman I was pretty squarely focused on the music of people like Jackie McLean and John Coltrane. By the time I graduated, in 2002, I had been exposed to an extremely broad set of musical traditions. And also given the tools, by people like Anthony Braxton and Jackie McLean and Jay Hoggard, to begin defining the parameters of my own music.

All in all one of the more intriguing new players, and I want to track down more of his music.  The next generation has had hip-hop as a soundtrack growing up, along with pervasive computing, and it all kind of comes together in Lehman’s approach.  He’s said he wants to “attempt to create a more groove-oriented music, without using repetition as a structural device.”

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