A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo by Willie Davis

An article by Hank Shteamer in Time Out New York heralds Steve Lehmanas “one of the key exponents of the new in jazz.” The saxophonists discography includes “some of the sleekest, most sophisticated and most sheerly enjoyable recent statements in the genre…what you point to when someone asks you what NYC jazz sounds like right now.”

Steve’s most recent release, Dialect Fluorescent (Pi) is the followup to 2009’s Travail, Transformation, and Flow (Pi), which garnered international critical acclaim, including the #1 spot on The New York Times critic Nate Chinen’s list of the Best Albums of 2009. Dialect Fluorescent is already receiving it’s fair share of accolades: we recommend reviews from The New York Times and NPR.

The saxophonist has recorded and performed around the globe with an array of artists including Anthony Braxton, Dave Burrell, Mark Dresser, Vijay Iyer, Oliver Lake, Meshell Ndegeocello, David Wessel, and High Priest of Anti-Pop Consortium. Steve also holds post-graduate degrees in composition from Wesleyan (M.A.) and Columbia University (Ph.D.), and his concert music has been tackled by International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), So Percussion, Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, The Jack String Quartet, and members of the Argento and Wet Ink Ensembles.

We’ve been presenting Steve’s music for almost a decade, and we look forward to hosting his trio (Matt Brewer: bass; Damion Reid: drums; SL: saxophone) this weekend as they celebrate the release of Dialect Fluorescent. They will be joined by a special guest pianist each night: David Virelles on ThursdayVijay Iyer on Friday, and James Hurt on Saturday.

Update: Both The New York Times and Time Out New York have selected Steve’s weekend-long run at The Gallery as a Critics’ Pick:

★ The New York Times:

The alto saxophonist and composer Steve Lehman has earned a reputation for sure-footed futurism, notably with his sleek but audacious octet. His new album, “Dialect Fluorescent” (Pi), feels like an attempt to re-establish his grounding in the postbop tradition, without backpedaling. The album features the bassist Matt Brewer and the drummer Damion Reid, a responsive rhythm team that reappears here, with a different guest pianist each night: Vijay Iyer, a regular partner, joins on Friday, and James Hurt appears on Saturday.

★ Time Out New York:

Prodigious saxophonist and composer Steve Lehman and his longtime triomates—bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Damion Reid—celebrate an excellent new full-length, Dialect Fluorescent,which finds the originality-obsessed Lehman taking on classics by John Coltrane, Jackie McLean and others (not to mention the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory theme song). Guest pianists join the band each night: David Virelles on Thursday, Lehman’s Fieldwork bandmate Vijay Iyer on Friday and James Hurt on Saturday.

Steve was kind enough to answer our questions about his collaborators and their upcoming run. Steve Lehman speaks:


Please provide a brief history of this trio, possibly including a few words about your relationships to collaborators past and present as well as anything you might like to add regarding compositional/ensemble goals or objectives.

Matt and Damion and I started playing together as a trio around 2006. Since that time, we’ve done a fair amount touring in the U. S. and Europe, including a short European tour in the summer of 2011 which ended right before we recorded Dialect Fluorescent. As a bass-and-drum team, Damion and Matt have been playing together since 2002, when they, along with Jason Moran, comprised Greg Osby’s rhythm section. And I’ve been working with Matt is a variety of different contexts, since 2003. So, we’ve really had a lot of time to develop and cultivate a rich collective language.

Tell us about the music on the album, as well as any new repertoire the band will be focusing on at The Gallery.

Well, this is the first recording I’ve done that really features music by composers like John Coltrane and Jackie McLean. So, we present arrangement of “Moment’s Notice” and “Pure Imagination” and “Mr. E” alongside my own original compositions. But it’s not about paying homage to the jazz tradition in a respectful or dutiful way. This trio treats every piece as an opportunity to create something really special and unique in the moment. And I think you hear that in the recording as well. We really try to burnish both original compositions and standard repertoire with a modernist sheen.

Talk about the decision to invite guest pianists, and say a few words about each of the three pianists who will be joining you.

Well, I wanted to showcase the fact that the repertoire that we perform as a trio can really sustain and encourage a multitude of musical perspectives. So, I thought bringing in all of these wonderful pianists would be a really great way to do that. On June 7th, it will be David Virelles, who’s an incredibly gifted pianist who has kind of been taking NYC by storm of late, in groups led by Mark Turner, Steve Coleman, and Ravi Coltrane. Then, on Friday, June 8th it’s Vijay Iyer who I’ve been working with since 2003. Vijay is a close friend and I think we share a really powerful musical bond at this point, so I’m excited to have him join the trio. And then on June 9th, James Hurt will join us. James is a true “musician’s musician.” I’ve been a big admirer of his music for a long time and this will actually be our first time performing together.


Watch the EPK for Dialect Fluorescent and stream a track via NPR.