Steve Lehman

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Travail, Transformation and Flow

This 2009 album, which is already acknowledged as a classic, shows that jazz is still moving forwards. This music is genuinely new and sounds so advanced that it is hard to imagine it sounding dated in 2050. Altoist Lehman’s conception of what he is doing is thoroughly intellectualised, as the title suggests - he doesn’t just favour the continental philosophy titles either, because another of his albums is called On Meaning! – but there are memorable fragments of melody on this album, most notably on the final track, and the solos burn in a manner entirely continuous with the tradition of jazz. The three most striking features of the music are the compositions, which leave behind the repeated chord structures of jazz in favour of ever-changing rhythms and futuristic floating harmonies, the distinctive instrumentation which includes tuba, vibraphone, and Tyshawn Sorey’s high-tech and high-energy drumming, and the cutting-edge virtuosic solos by Lehman and the more traditionally-toned but otherwise like-minded tenor player Mark Shim.