By Tim Niland
This was one of Steve Lehman’s earliest albums, a missive from his (currently inactive) Camouflage Trio consisting of Lehman on alto and sopranino saxophones, Mark Dresser on bass and Pheeroan Aklaff on drums. The album was recorded live in Coimbra, Portugal, in 2003 and had been out of print in physical form for several years. In the intervening time, Lehman has become one of the most renowned musicians on the modern jazz scene and he has a new album coming out soon. The trio has a deeply unified concept, which is shown on the opening track, “Structural Fire,” which features Lehman’s ripe and tart alto saxophone playing in a fast and exciting manner over storming bass and drums. They reach a potent collective improvisation playing steadfast and nimble throughout a long and fascinating performance. The trio moves dynamically through passages and culminate with Lehman developing a massive saxophone sound aided and abetted by excellent rhythm. “Hamlet” has a pungent saxophone tone and hollow sounding drums, building a fast and agile structure for their improvisation to hinge upon. The music becomes even faster and more thrilling, leaving the listener awestruck at the improvisational faculties of the trio when they develop to an outrageous pummeling and then throttle back just in time for the conclusion. There is nice thick bass and drums interaction with Lehman’s hard charging saxophone on “Huis Clos.” The group develops an intuitive collective improvisation that is fast paced with deep bass and biting alto saxophone reminiscent of Lehman’s mentor Jackie McLean and hard swinging drumming. “Rison” has loose bass and drums freeing up the sound of the music and the saxophone enters with subtle heat, building rough sandpaper type feel. There is a section for quieter bass and horn squeaks before the band ramps up the speed with slamming drums and gales of saxophone. The concluding track, “Interface” has some beautifully subtle bass and drum work, before the leader comes in and lifts the performance off with some powerful saxophone playing, necessitating heavier bass and drums and making for a great improvisation. The performance is dynamic with loud/soft and open/full sections alternating. There is some wonderful saxophone and drums interplay either playing together or alternating solo sections, and Aklaff gets a tremendous drum solo before the trio comes together for a rousing conclusion. This is an excellent album and a founding statement in Steve Lehman’s discography. You can listen this album to learn how he began to build his unique sound, or just listen to it as wonderful music. It works brilliantly either way.