Sunday, April 8, 2012
The Firehouse Goes" Fluorescent" + Reunion of the Spirits
In his youth and college days, Lehman studied with both Jackie McLean and Anthony Braxton. Over the past decade, he has developed into one of the most fascinating composers and musicians on the contemporary scene. During that time, he's worked alongside pianist Vijay Iyer and drummer Tyshawn Sorey in Fieldwork, has been studying composition at Columbia University in New York City with French composer Tristan Murail, played with bassist Stephan Crump as well as alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and toured with various sized ensembles. Yet, this new recording reminds me a lot of Trio Air, the collective of saxohonist/flutist Henry Threadgill, bassist Fred Hopkins and drummer Steve McCall. And, it's not imitation; I hear it in the "conversations" between the instrumentalists, in Damion Reid's wonderful sense of drive and propulsion, in the full tones of Matt Brewer's bass notes and in the tart, crystalline sharp, tone of Lehman's alto saxophone.
This music, either on record or "live" in performance, is insistent, demanding on both listeners and performers, and quite exhilarating. Damion Reid's playing is exceptional, made more so by the fact that bassist Matt Brewer equally impressive bass does not always supplant the drums as timekeeper. Yet, the music rarely stops moving forward; one has to believe that is Steve Lehman's vision, to continually move and change, like a strong river current that is always changing shape but never losing sight of its ultimate destination. To find out more, go to www.stevelehman.com or to pirecordings.com/artist/Steve_Lehman. For ticket information and availability, go to firehouse12.com or call 203-785-0468.
Disk 1 is comprised of 4 longer pieces opening with the hard-driving "Shape One." The song has great drive (excellent work from hartigan) and a melody that works off the percussion. The interaction of the brass with Bindman's tenor and the chords behind the tenor solo remind me of Andrew Hill in his Blue Note days. The title track is, admittedly, influenced by South Indian rhythms, moving from an opening section without metric time to a thematic section with multiple meters. The drum solo, which sounds like hartigan using only his hands (and foot on the high-hat) in the beginning, is involving as is the tenor solo that follows, with several phrases that refer to the South Indian beats in the rhythm. Bindman acknowledges the influence of trumpeter/composer Bill Dixon on "Robeson House Echoes", another multi-sectioned piece with more rhythmic excitement and fascinating writing for the front line. Hirahara's hypnotic piano alongside hartigan's strong ride cymbal work sets the table for the solo section. London rides the rhythm and delivers an impassioned solo while Regev jousts and spars with the drummer while the pianist adds quiet tinkling noises. Bindman's episodic music leaves room for exposition and improvisation, moments of silence in the midst of a series of sonic storms and strong solos.
I had the pleasure to watch Messrs. Bindman, Brown and hartigan play many times together during their University years. At the time, hartigan would thrill us with his percussive choices and you can hear how expressive and thoughtful he is throughout this program. He and Bindman's tenor work well together on "Landings Suite: 1. The Transient", with his African-influenced drumming in conversation with Bindman's somewhat edgy sounds. After they finish, Brown and Ms. Regev engage in a lively musical exchange. This piece offers ensemble work, trio interaction and several different tempi. London's rich trumpet work is featured (above the moaning sax and trombone but no rhythm section) on the next section "2. Singing Bird Melody." hartigan's African drumming is the focal point of "4.Invisible Dance", a piece inspired by the poorest people in all societies who are subjugated by their poverty and rendered invisible to most peopel by their economic condition. Brown joins in as the piece picks up in pace.
Disk 2 also features the handsome ballad "Unspoken", an ever-so-slow work that shows the influence of Charles Mingus - the sparkling yet gentle piano of Hirahara is very effective in setting the mood that is carried on by the reeds and horns. The pianist is quietly expressive on several tracks, his rippling phrases fanning across the music and adding handsome colors.
"Sunset Park Polyphony" is a very personal recording from David Bindman; dedicated to his late mother (who passed when he was in his early teens) and featuring musicians, some of whom he has quite a history with, this music demands your attention. Intelligent, multi-rhythmic, at turns lyrical or challenging but never dull, this aural experience is worth your attention. For more information, go to www.davidbindman.com.