Preview: Steve Lehman Octet at Vortex

Preview: Steve Lehman Octet
Vortex Jazz Club, London Thursday 20th January 8.30pm, preview by Tony Dudley-Evans (also at CBSO Centre, Birmingham Friday 21st January, 8pm)

Proof that the New York creative scene is still producing great new bands comes in this octet featuring the music of alto saxophonist and composer Steve Lehman.

I first heard Steve Lehman on the album he made with Fieldwork, a cooperative group with pianist Vijay Iyer and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. I was immediately impressed with the movement between composition and improvisation, and the way the trio avoided the head-plus-solos format. Having spent a lot of time listening to that album, I was fascinated to hear that Steve had produced an octet album entitled rather grandly Travail, Transformation and Flow (Pi). For me this was the most exciting album I bought in 2010.. I was really taken with the quality of the compositions and again with the seamless flow between these compositions and the solos plus the rhythmic energy of it all. I think this quote from John Fordham’s Guardian review (July 2009) captures it well:

“His combining of textures, layering of rhythms and mind-boggling juggles with bar-lengths sounds like a Dave Holland band with a rhythm section in hyperdrive.”

The octet includes some of the leading New York players; as well as Steve as leader and alto saxophonist, it has Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Mark Shim on tenor sax, Tim Albright on trombone, Chris Dingman on vibes, Drew Gress on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums.

Mark Shim is a much underrated, but very impressive tenor player who toured UK with Terence Blanchard many years ago; Jonathan Finlayson plays a major role on recent recordings by Steve Coleman and Elements; Drew Gress has toured with many of the most interesting groups in New York, notably various groups led by Tim Berne and Uri Caine as well as an appearance with his own group some years ago at Cheltenham and Tyshawn Sorey has toured UK with John Escreet.

After these two gigs in UK the octet will play a festival in Paris.
Produced by Birmingham Jazz with support from Sound and Music.


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4 replies »

  1. The performance at The Vortex on Thursday night was very impressive. Pretty close to approaching the perfect jazz gig. This powerhouse of an octet wowed the audience with their sheer energy, precision and mastery of chord and tempo changes. Many of the near capacity crowd left with that glazed look in their eyes, which was definitely not down to the refreshments.

    If you are anywhere near the CBSO Centre in Birmingham this evening, do yourself a favour and go see The Steve Lehman Octet.


  2. Tim! wow…

    Anyway, the gig as mr. Fool pointed out, was amazing. I've tried writing something lengthier than this little ditty, however I have to say that my ideas about the reactions to that gig (at the vortex) I'm having are evolving so rapidly, I'd rather not bore you all. Just yet.

    Suffice to say, I just want to draw close attention to the demands that Lehman's tunes put on the players, and how well they all responded it. It made for riveting listening, and in a world of rushed gigs/tours/recordings, casts a ray of positivity towards this dedicated work and study.

    They've all gone home now, but I hope their influence (musical, non-musical) will benefit people, as it has me. It's really, really exciting.

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