Universally hailed as the most innovative young saxophonists to emerge in recent years, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman formed their co-led quintet, Dual Identity in 2004. Clean Feed Records is very pleased to announce the release of their highly-anticipated, self-titled debut recording.
But make no mistake, this is not an old-fashioned alto battle. And this is not a concept album. This live recording is an important marker in Mahanthappa and Lehman's shared history, and documents the work of two cutting-edge composer/performers who have made a commitment to learning from each other and to expanding the possibilities of what their music can be.
Listening to the very first notes of "The General", it becomes immediately clear that Mahanthappa and Lehman have developed a rich, collective language that fuses their highly distinctive voices into one single meta-instrument. We have never heard two saxophonists sound quite like this: turning on a dime, moving in and out of time, morphing tempos, gliding effortlessly between tuning systems. And for that reason, their duo work is a revelation and also a microcosm of the album as a whole. "Foster Brothers", for example, is a diamond-hard miniature that focuses on changing speeds while "SMS" juxtaposes nuanced lyricism with visceral solos. Other pieces like "Circus" and "Extensions Of Extensions Of" showcase Lehman and Mahanthappa's powerful ability to lead their all-star band into go-for-broke territory. And "Resonance Ballad" and "Katchu" highlight the delicate and meticulous attention to musical detail that permeates the entire recording.
Throughout their self-titled release, Mahanthappa and Lehman's hyper-modern compositional vision is brought to life by their remarkable quintet, featuring three musicians who represent the absolute state-of-the-art on their respective instruments: Damion Reid on drums, Matt Brewer on bass and Liberty Ellman on guitar. Ellman, in particular, has become an established master, capable of asserting his one-of-a-kind instrumental voice, while acting as the perfect melodic foil for bandleaders like Henry Threadgill and Greg Osby. Damion Reid and Matt Brewer have also earned an elite international reputation for their unique ability to execute the most demanding compositional materials with dazzling improvisational finesse. These five musicians share a rich collective history in a wide variety of musical settings and it shows.
Dual Identity builds from Lehman and Mahanthappa's recent solo recordings, but also sounds like nothing they've ever done before. This music is bursting with honesty and humor and with the excitement of discovery that ties Rudresh and Steve together. This is the state of the alto saxophone: past, present and future.