Alto saxophonist Steve Lehman brings all languages to jazz | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Alto saxophonist Steve Lehman brings all languages to jazz


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In 1987, free-jazz originator Ornette Coleman named an album In All Languages; fellow alto saxophonist Steve Lehman, who began his career around 15 years later, seems to have taken that title as a challenge to be met at every turn. On his own records, Lehman has crossbred jazz with spectral and minimalist composition, English and Senegalese rap, and electroacoustic improvisation. As a sideman, he has lent his pungent tone and thoughtful responsiveness to the music of artists as diverse as Anthony Braxton, Jason Moran, and Meshell Ndegeocello. But in his trio with bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Damion Reid, Lehman engages with the jazz tradition, riding its imperatives of swing and personal invention into the 21st century. Working with his own tunes and compositions by Duke Pearson, Jackie McLean, Kenny Kirkland, and Autechre, Lehman unpacks elaborate, convoluted phrases while navigating an ever-changing rhythmic landscape at breakneck speed. Pianist Craig Taborn joins the trio on their new album, The People I Love (Pi), adding extra layers of harmonic and melodic complexity, but they will perform without him tonight.   v

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