Steve Lehman ’00 Octet delivers ‘mesmerizing sound’

By Caroline MacNeille '16

[Steve Lehman]Martin Johnston, for the Wall Street Journal, reviews the "mesmerizing sound" of the jazz octet headed by Steve Lehman '00 MA'02. After completing his BA at Wesleyan in 2000, and his MA two years later, Steve traveled to France as a Fulbright scholar where he learned more about spectral music. Steve received a Doris Duke Foundation grant this year and is a departmental fellow at Columbia University.

The octet includes vibraphonist Chris Dingman '02 and drummer Tyshan Sorey MA'11, while Steve plays the alto saxophone and laptop. The development of Steve's spectral-music-influenced music within academia is examined in this review:

The road to renown in the jazz world typically goes through the bandstand: Impressions made playing at jam sessions often result in sideman gigs, which can open opportunities to lead a band. Saxophonist-composer Steve Lehman took a different path.

..."I was looking for the set-up that would afford me the maximum amount of time to focus on music," Mr. Lehman said in a telephone interview earlier this month. The Wesleyan and Columbia graduate programs are fully funded, with fellowships to help defray living expenses. The freedom from having to earn a living allowed Mr. Lehman, 35, to record impressive albums in trio and quintet settings, and he has created an octet that is producing some of the most exciting music in jazz today.

...Mr. Lehman's innovative compositions are informed by spectral-music theory, an approach to harmony built around timbres rather than the usual tonal-atonal relationship. "I first turned on to spectral music around 1999 or 2000," Mr. Lehman said. "I was immediately struck by the otherworldly sound of the music and the ways that Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisey, in particular, work with harmony," said Mr. Lehman, explaining that it "isn't about being in tune or out of tune."

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Image: from article; c/o Corbis

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