On Meaning

I’ve been waiting for some forward thinking musician to intelligently combine the music of M-Base (which is both cerebral and funky but not particularly emotional) with elements of John Coltrane’s classic period modal innovations. Alto saxophonist Steve Lehman takes an impressive step in that direction with On Meaning. Lehman is a logician who aligns himself with musicians whose functions often oppose his measured approach. Drummer Tyshawn Sorey plays with unchecked aggression, intent on keeping the music from becoming too purely cerebral. Trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson has progressed beyond the mathematical formulations of his earlier years. Here he plays with both precision and invention. Drew Gress again shows himself to be one of the leading bassists of his era. But the catalyst for On Meaning is the deployment of Chris Dingman’s vibes. They add the necessary emotional quality that ties the music directly to its modal past. I particularly enjoyed "Process" with its impossibly tricky Morse Code opening. It’s a kind of Miles-ish theme brought into the 21st century. And check out the superb "Check This Out." Dresser carries the whole band on his back, giving everyone (especially Lehman himself) all the support they need to really take flight. Review by Charles Farrell

PI Recordings