Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

November/December 2012: Cyrille Aimée

Steve Lehman

Written by:

The jazz world as we know it today has entered a state of transition, evolving from a period centered around tradition, lineage and the western notion of “logos” (akin to the artistic modernity of the early twentieth century), to a state of post-modernism, intertextuality, the immediate globalization of knowledge, and a constantly developing avant-garde.

We see two camps emerging from the dust of the twentieth century, each clinging to its own respective lineage of musical idols and influences. There are some, though, who straddle the void, who seek to expand their musical vocabularies and potentials by drawing on both sides of the divide.

One musician who exemplifies this is saxophonist Steve Lehman. He seeks to deepen his understanding of the long-standing jazz idiom, while constantly expanding and pushing the boundaries of improvised performance music.

You might hear Steve playing with fellow contemporary luminaries pianist Vijay Iyer and drummer Tyshawn Sorey in the atonal-oriented improvisational trio, Fieldwork. You might hear him performing live experimental improvisations with computer software. You might hear his compositions for ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble). You might catch him touring with his trio (with drummer Damian Reid and bassist Matt Brewer) in support of his new record Dialectic Fluorescent, playing rearrangements of standards as well as breathtaking originals. No matter what context, Steve Lehman always delves into the core of any given piece to draw fluent, exciting and provoking improvisations.

This makes perfect sense, as Steve has studied with both Jackie Mclean and Anthony Braxton, two geniuses and extremely influential alto saxophonists who represent markedly different aesthetic approaches. He feels as comfortable transcribing and absorbing Bud Powell solos as he does studying and implementing techniques of spectral harmony, often attributed to the work of French composer Tristan Murail.

If Steve Lehman came to town, Winnipeg would be exposed to an evolving, modern avant-gardist, as well as to a musician who seeks to absorb and expand the long-standing tradition of improvised performance music. We can always hope! In the meantime, check out his website:

Copyright! © 2023 dig! magazine.