May 30, 2010

Steve Lehman Octet live in Moers 2010

The internet media says: "pioneering, exciting, explore idiosyncratic sound, highly listenable, contemporary classical music, urban rhythms, striking new harmonies, sound very alien yet satisfyingly beautiful, academic jazz at its best, fresh, personal, unique, furious concentration, doggedly intense, unvarnished gutsiness, intellectual heft, fidgety beats and haunting counterpoint, tension between structure and spontaneity, clinical attention to frequency and overtone, knockabout post-bop avant-garde, perfectly ultramodern gesture, strong curiosity and identity, unique, thoroughly modern music, elusive style similar to rare true love or even passive/aggressive acquaintance, spatial alto, fresh and inventive progressive sounds, new, innovative music, intricate writing, brave journey into the future of jazz."

I didn't get it. I had read a lot about Lehman's octet, I had heard two or three songs from the latest album, and I really like Fieldwork (even the old one before the arrival of Tyshawn Sorey). But I didn't get it. The concert Lehman's Octet played in Moers was a gush of water rapidly passing by. It didn't touch me, didn't make me wet, didn't carry me away. I maybe didn't even get to the shore of this stream, but just beheld it through a slight layer of fog or through a stained window. Yes, I had read Lehman's introduction to spectralism on Destination:out, yes, I understood what all these long notes from the brass players meant, these notes that were popping up at seemingly odd moments of(f) the beat and introduce spectral harmony to jazz. I think the experience was overcharged. Though being theoretically prepared, my sensory organs couldn't grasp it and my brain couldn't make sense out of it. The wild and rhythmic groove from Sorey's drumset was sweeping, yet to me it felt like the peep-peep-peep from the other players was detached from that. The overall impression was: cold. The concert left me cold. And, while I have assembled random quotes of appraisal from reviews and blog posts, even in all these highly positive articles one could find the words, that are closer to my experience: "artificially created phrases, cold, rational and geometric, overall darkness, abstruse".
Lutz Eitel found this gig spectacular. /// edit 2010/06/02: see Lutz's comment below - there was some misunderstanding and misinterpretation of his usage of the word "spectacular". ///

A few days later, back home, I re-listened to a few of the pieces. Maybe the yeast is growing now? It seems on record I could get access to this more easily. I'm still not as enthusiastic about it as the internet buzz crowd, but the relationship between me and the Lehman octet might keep growing. As long as this relationship hasn't reached adolescence, I'll stick with Fieldwork. And I'm really not certain, if Lehman's spectralism would thrust jazz into the future or if it is merely a footnote. /// edit 2010/06/02: When thinking about the complicated music of Mr. Lehman again today, Shakespeare's famous line came into my mind: "a tale full of sound and fury / signifying nothing". ///

P.S.: Articles often mention as teachers and influences of Mr. Lehman: Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, George Lewis. But Threagill is warm, Braxton is flexible (amphibic?). Yes, George Lewis and Steve Lehman might be related in coldness.

(Shine on you crazy tuba cone)

The Steve Lehman Hype on the internet:
The interview buzz: By Jason Crane on his Jazz Session programme. A German podcast with some interview snippets at the Jazz Thing magazine's website - part one and two. By Josh Jackson on WBGO (plus a review in the Checkout New Music programme).
The blog buzz: Undomondo, Time Out New York, New York Times Playlist, A Blog Supreme, New Music Box.
And certainly the review buzz:, #1 and #2, New York Times.
Already mentioned: Spectralism introduced by Mr. Lehman himself on Destination:out.


ayu1234 said...

I have to say, they are so much better when comparing with the Chicago tentet. At least I could still figure out some imagery from their music from time to time, while the group of the old men only pissed me off with their brutality.

Spring Day said...

We will get to that soon ;-)

Lutz said...

No, you don't get me. I thought it didn't work, but I wasn't sure if this was just the atrocious sound (easily the worst during the four days). So I repeated the line: I wish they would let up now and then, because I didn't really feel the music. Checking the octet on youtube and elsewhere, I now begin to be more comfortable with my feeling that this didn't work. (I have huge respect for what Tyshawn Sorey did on that gig, but still it didn't help the music.)

Hey, your first post says that we almost could have been at different concerts, but I must say that when you factor out our different taste in drummers we probably both were at Moers :-) Cheers, Lutz

Spring Day said...

Hi Lutz, thanks for helping me to get things straight. I misinterpreted your usage of "spectacular". And right, while I'm recalling my experiences from the festival and write them down here, I also recognize that our differences are not general, but rather in the nuances.

Anonymous said...

oh well. you didn't get it. your loss!
at least your professed your ignorance fully.
You have that going for you.

Spring Day said...

Anonymous, thanks for your pity. You're right, I'd really like to get it, but things can't be forced.
I really think every experiment in music should be done, everything should be tried once. Therefore I highly appreciate Mr. Lehman's effort to fuse modern jazz and spectralism. However, not every experiment is successful. An experiment is a question, it is a way to find something out. So, experiments can fail. It's better to fail with a bold experiment than to stick to one's own little, well-known soil all the time. So, my full respect to Steve Lehman.

So, what does work on me? This evening I've been listening to one of my favorite records, "Pace Yourself" by Tim Berne's Caos Totale. I think that's somehow in the same realm: It's rather complicatedly composed, densely, neatly, tightly arranged, kick-in-the-ass rhythms - and the improvisations are hot and high-spirited. I think this record shares the complication and density (though it's only a sextet) of the Lehman Octet, but at the same time it's moving, funky.

ayu1234 said...

indeed, 'not every experiment is successful.'

the other day, when I tried to post some comment and failed to do so, I tended to say that what matters is the result. One appreciate all kinds of effort, that is counting from the moral or ethical perspectives. nevertheless, when speaking from the perspective of music appreciation, I guess that the effect, which can arouse healthy and meaningful thought about life, would be what counts.

ayu1234 said...

every time when I tried to say more, then problem came. so, I just copy one saying here: 任凭弱水三千,我只取一瓢饮. which means, one should get clear what does one want, then, get that specific shell of water for oneself.