AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Steve Lehman Octet – Mise en Abime (2014; Pi Recordings)

pi54_270The title of this album refers to the phenomenon of standing between two mirrors and seeing an infinite reproductions of one’s image. And the way that Lehman brings intellectualism to creative music, comparisons to M. C. Escher and recursion are perhaps appropriate. Joined by Chris Dingman, Jonathan Finlayson, Drew Gress, and Tyshawn Sorey, among others, Lehman’s octet features five horns, vibes, bass, and drums. The result is a busy, almost frantic, feel stretching across eight tracks.

While Mise en Abime resembles free jazz at times, it is too pre-planned to fall squarely into that category. Particularly, this album continues Lehman’s foray into spectral music, though it does not seem as much at first listen. Instead his hard bop, Braxton, and Ellington influences are at the fore throughout most of this recording. But on some tracks, such as Beyond All Limits, shimmering spectralism creeps in to good effect.  Lehman instructs his group to create sweeping background sound effects. Whether Lehman composed some of these pieces in the spectral domain is unclear, but ultimately it does not matter.  Hearing Mise en Abime is like listening to two different albums played on top of one another.  This combination works, but it leaves you with a sense of wonderment over the composer’s ability to synthesize all of the sounds and keep them straight.

A very compelling release that is cerebral, but never too academic in nature. Highly recommended.

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