Steve Lehman

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2014

Los Angeles, CA

Alto saxophonist Steve Lehman is a composer, performer, educator, and scholar who works across a broad spectrum of experimental musical idioms. His pieces for large orchestra and chamber ensembles have been performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble, the PRISM Saxophone Quartet, and the JACK Quartet, among others. His 2014 recording, Mise en Abîme, was chosen as the #1 Jazz Album of the year by NPR Music and The Los Angeles Times. And his previous recording, Travail, Transformation & Flow (Pi, 2009) was cited as the #1 Jazz album of the year by The New York Times. Lehman has performed and recorded nationally and internationally with his own ensembles and with those led by Anthony Braxton, Vijay Iyer, George Lewis, Jason Moran, Me'Shell Ndegéocello, and more. He was awarded a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship and received a doctorate in Music Composition from Columbia University in 2012. His trio and his octet, which has been supported by CMA New Jazz Works (2012) and Presenting Jazz (2010) grants, perform regularly throughout the United States, Europe, and South America.

  • Photo Credit: Willie Davis
    Steve Lehman
  • Steve Lehman Octet (2010)
  • Steve Lehman- International Contemporary Ensemble performs Steve Lehman’s Impossible Flow (2011) :
    International Contemporary Ensemble performs Steve Lehman’s Impossible Flow (2011)
  • Steve Lehman and the International Contemporary Ensemble

What fuels your impulse to make creative work?

My work as a composer/performer is centered around thresholds of transition and becoming, where the exploration of a liminal terrain between two fixed identities can lead to a transcendent musical experience. The investigation of boundaries, both real and imagined, is central to my music: the lines that separate communities of musicians, modes of perception, and histories of performance practice. Deeply rooted in Jazz and other Afrological forms, my inquiry into musical boundaries is further reinforced by the traditional and fundamental nature of improvisation as a creative practice situated at the threshold of structure and disorder, individuality and community, understanding and mystification, and the known and the unknown.