Steve Lehman

Structural Fire

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This successful debut by Steve Lehman as a leader reflects his primary influences: Jackie McLean and Anthony Braxton, two of the most important saxophonists of the 20th century. From the opening track, "Panther," it is clear that despite the presence of free improvisation masters trumpeter Roy Campbell Jr. and percussionist Kevin Norton, this group looks to the past as much as to the future. "Panther"'s hard bop melody hearkens to the 1950s, yet not unsurprisingly the solos transport it to the 21st century with radical harmonies and extensive liberties. The results invigorate, and even on the astonishingly abstract take of McLean's "Orbits," the only piece not penned by Lehman, the sense of melodic center is never completely lost. Lehman is a powerful performer -- his sound, particularly on sopranino, shows elements of early Braxton -- but Lehman is far from being a mere clone. His jagged lines display an uncommon fluency at the fastest tempos and an appreciation for traditional constructs even on the freer sections. Kevin O'Neil impresses with a highly original style that continues to mark him as one of the leading practitioners of modern jazz guitar. Kevin Norton is another important presence, and his duo with Lehman on "Lasers" is a lesson in the art. Finally, Roy Campbell puts in some excellent brass work, his brash, creative phrasing adding a pungent flavor. This recording is a companion to its sequel, also released on the CIMP label (CIMP 255), which was recorded at the same session. An auspicious beginning for a fresh new talent.

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