The Squid's Ear Magazine

Lehman, Steve / Orchestre National De Jazz : Ex Machina (Pi Recordings)

A collaboration between NY saxophonist & composer Steve Lehman and the French Orchestre National de Jazz (ONJ), performing compositions by both Lehman and ONJ's artistic director, Frédéric Maurin that blur the boundaries between jazz, experimental and composed forms, using spectral harmonies and real-time interactive electronics developed at IRCAM; powerful!

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Steve Lehman-alto saxophone, electronics

Jonathan Finlayson-trumpet

Chris Dingman-vibraphone

Frederic Maurin-direction, electronics

Fanny Menegoz-flute, alto flute, piccolo

Catherine Delaunay-clarinet, basset horn

Julien Soro-tenor saxophone, clarinet

Fabien Debellefontaine-baritone saxophone, clarinet, flute

Fabien Norbert-trumpet, flugelhorn

Daniel Zimmermann-trombone

Christiane Bopp-trombone

Fanny Meteier-tuba

Bruno Ruder-piano, synthesizer

Stephan Caracci-vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel, percussion, synthesizer

Rafael Koerner-drums

Sarah Murcia-double bass

Jerome Nika-generative electronics creation, artistic collaboration

Dionysios Papanikolaou-IRCAM electronics

Click an artist name above to see in-stock items for that artist.

UPC: 808713009927

Label: Pi Recordings
Catalog ID: Pi 99
Squidco Product Code: 33987

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Ex Machina, the collaboration between visionary saxophonist / composer Steve Lehman and the GRAMMY-nominated Orchestre National de Jazz (ONJ), is a dazzling work that sets a new standard of innovation for large jazz ensembles. With compositions by both Lehman and ONJ's artistic director, Frédéric Maurin, Ex Machina makes frequent use of otherworldly spectral harmonies that are reinforced and transformed, in real-time by live, interactive electronics developed at IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique Musique, founded in 1977 by Pierre Boulez). Soloists in the ensemble interact with highly-nuanced harmonies, propulsive rhythms, and computer-driven sound transformations to thrilling effect. This ambitious project is indisputably a major conceptual step forward for jazz big band.

In many ways, Ex Machina represents an extension of Lehman's work with his critically-acclaimed octet, whose groundbreaking recordings were the first to effectively utilize spectral harmony's complex sonorities in a jazz context. The octet's influential Mise en Abîme (Pi 2014) and Travail, Transformation and Flow (Pi 2009) was voted the #1 album of the year in the NPR Jazz Critics Poll and named the #1 jazz album of the year in The New York Times, respectively. Indeed, Maurin, who shares an affinity for spectral music, first met Lehman after a performance with his octet in Paris in 2016. After he was named the new director of ONJ he promptly commissioned Lehman to collaborate on a book of music rooted in these shared interests.

The new work also integrates interactive software developed by Jérôme Nika at IRCAM in which abstract electronic sounds react to solo improvisers in real-time while also proposing complex sonorities that augment the music's existing harmonic structure. At many points throughout the piece, the computer becomes, in effect, a generator of virtual orchestrations and an improvising partner for the musicians. Indeed, the album's name evokes spectral composer Grisey's iconic "Tempus Ex Machina" as well as Lehman and Maurin's inspired fusion of electronic sounds with traditional acoustic instrumentation.

While computer-driven improvisations pervade Ex Machina, it's still the crack soloists of the ONJ along with Lehman and his long-time collaborators and octet members Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet) and Chris Dingman (vibraphone) who carry the day. "Los Angeles Imaginary" is built around torrid solo exchanges between Lehman, Finlayson, and ONJ tenor saxophonist, Julien Soro, while "Chimera" features a tour-de-force performance from Dingman, who opens the piece in shadowy dialogue with a computer-driven percussion soloist. On "Les Treize Soleils" ONJ flautist, Fanny Ménégoz, interacts with an ethereal, AI-generated sonic landscape, and pushes it to feverish heights, before eventually giving way to a fast, trancelike rhythm in 13/16. Still, in other works, Lehman and Maurin's affinity for highly-nuanced orchestration, creates a unique environment for improvisation and group interaction. Maurin's "Le Seuil (part 2)" opens with a series of massive tutti chords that somehow manages to be equal parts Gil Evans and Blade Runner 2049. Lehman's "Jeux d'Anches" lives up to its namesake by combining the timbres of the ONJ woodwind section to create the sound of an imaginary reed organ.

Every track contains remarkable moments like these. Ex Machina is a meticulously crafted work that explores the intersection between cutting-edge composition and arrangement, interactive electronics, and jazz improvisation. The album represents an electrifying new concept for a jazz big band, and continues to position Lehman as a trailblazing artist at the cutting-edge of jazz.

Described as "one of the transforming figures of early 21st century jazz," by The Guardian and as a "state-of-the-art musical thinker" by The New York Times, Steve Lehman is a composer, alto saxophonist, educator, and scholar who works across a broad spectrum of experimental musical idioms. In addition to leading his own acclaimed ensembles, he has performed and recorded with Anthony Braxton, Vijay Iyer, George Lewis, Bennie Maupin, Jason Moran, Georgia-Anne Muldrow, Meshell Ndegeocello, and High Priest of Antipop Consortium, among many others. Pitchfork pronounced that his latest project with his band Selebeyone, a synthesis of hip hop, jazz and electronic music is "legitimately new...a revelation."

The Orchestre National de Jazz was created by France's Ministry of Culture in 1986. It has played a large part in the institutional and cultural legitimization of jazz in France, notably in commissioning and offering a vast panorama of newly created works with artists like John Hollenbeck, Tim Berne, and many others.

Artistic director of the ONJ since January 2019, guitarist and composer Frédéric Maurin is widely celebrated throughout Europe for his innovative work with large jazz ensembles, including his long-standing big band Ping Machine, founded in 2005."-Pi Recordings

Artist Biographies

"Described as "a state-of-the-art musical thinker" and a "dazzling saxophonist," by The New York Times, Steve Lehman (b. New York City, 1978) is a composer, performer, educator, and scholar who works across a broad spectrum of experimental musical idioms. Lehman's pieces for large orchestra and chamber ensembles have been performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), So Percussion, Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, the JACK Quartet, the PRISM Saxophone Quartet, and the Talea Ensemble. His recent recording, Mise en Abîme (Pi, 2014) was called 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 chosen as the #1 Jazz Album of the year by The New York Times.

The recipient of a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award, Lehman is an alto saxophonist who has performed and recorded nationally and internationally with his own ensembles and with those led by Anthony Braxton, Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran, Meshell Ndegeocello, and High Priest of Anti-Pop Consortium, among many others. His recent electro-acoustic music has focused on the development of computer-driven models for improvisation, based in the Max/MSP programming environment. Lehman's work has been favorably reviewed in Artforum, Downbeat Magazine, The New York Times, Newsweek, and The Wire, and on National Public Radio, the BBC, and SWR.

As a Fulbright scholar in France during the 2002-2003 academic year, Lehman began researching the reception of African-American experimental composers working in France during the 1970s. His article in the journal Critical Studies in Improvisation, "I Love You with an Asterisk: African-American Experimental Composers and the French Jazz Press, 1970-1980," is based on his Fulbright research. More recently, Lehman has published writings and presented lectures on a wide range of topics, including jazz pedagogy, rhythm cognition, and European notions of American experimentalism. His current scholarship, including a forthcoming contribution to the Oxford Handbook of Spectral Music, examines the overlapping histories of spectral composition and jazz improvisation.

Lehman received his B.A. (2000) and M.A. in Composition (2002) from Wesleyan University where he studied under Anthony Braxton, Jay Hoggard, and Alvin Lucier, while concurrently working with Jackie McLean at the Hartt School of Music. He received his doctorate with distinction in Music Composition from Columbia University (2012), where his principal teachers included Tristan Murail and George Lewis.

Lehman has taught undergraduate courses at Wesleyan University, the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, New School University, and Columbia University, and has presented lectures at Amherst College, UC Berkeley, The Berklee School of Music, The Banff Centre, The Royal Academy of Music in London, and IRCAM in Paris, where he was a 2011 research fellow.

Beginning in September 2016, Lehman will join the music faculty at The California Institute of the Arts."

-Steve Lehman Website (

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"Jonathan Finlayson has been recognized by the New York Times as " incisive and often surprising trumpeter," who is "...fascinated with composition." Born in 1982 in Berkeley, CA, Finlayson began playing the trumpet at the age of ten in the Oakland public school system. He came under the tutelage of Bay Area legend Robert Porter, a veteran trumpeter from the bebop era who took Finlayson under his wing; he was often seen accompanying Porter on his gigs about town and sitting in on the popular Sunday nights jam session at the Bird Cage. He subsequently attended the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music where he studied with Eddie Henderson, Jimmy Owens and Cecil Bridgewater.

Finlayson is a disciple of the saxophonist/composer/conceptualist Steve Coleman, having joined his band Five Elements in 2000 at the age of 18. He is widely admired for his ability to tackle cutting-edge musical concepts with aplomb. Finlayson has performed and recorded in groups led by Steve Lehman, Mary Halvorson, Craig Taborn, Henry Threadgill and played alongside notables such as Von Freeman, Jason Moran, Dafnis Prieto and Vijay Iyer."

-Jonathan Finlayson Website (

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"Chris Dingman is a vibraphonist and composer known for his distinctive approach to the instrument: sonically rich and conceptually expansive, bringing listeners on a journey to a beautiful, transcendent place. He has been profiled by NPR, the New York Times, DRUM magazine and many other publications, and has received fellowships and grants from the Chamber Music America, the Doris Duke Foundation, New Music USA, and the Herbie Hancock Institute (formerly the Thelonious Monk Institute).

Dingman has done significant work with legendary artists Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter as well as next generation visionaries such as Jen Shyu, Ambrose Akinmusire, Steve Lehman, and many others, performing around the world including India, Vietnam, and extensively in Europe and North America. Hailed by the New York Times as a "dazzling" soloist and a composer with a "fondness for airtight logic and burnished lyricism," the fluidity of his musical approach has earned him praise as "an extremely gifted composer, bandleader, and recording artist." (Jon Weber, NPR).


While growing up in San Jose, California, Dingman began piano and percussion studies at an early age. He went on to attend Wesleyan University, where he received his B.A. with honors in music. While at Wesleyan, he studied intensively with vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, drummer Pheeroan AkLaff, composer/multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton, and mridangist David Nelson. During this time, he was heavily involved in the study of many of the world's musical cultures, including South Indian, West African, Korean, Afro-Cuban, and Brazilian music. In the summer of 2000, his studies brought him to Kerala, India to delve further into mridangam and South Indian classical music.

In 2005, Dingman was one of only seven musicians selected by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Terence Blanchard to participate in the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. At the Institute, he studied with Terence Blanchard, Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Jerry Bergonzi, Wynton Marsalis, Jason Moran, Lewis Nash, Hal Crook, Stefan Harris, John Magnussen, Vince Mendoza, Russell Ferrante, and many others. He received his Master of Music degree from USC and the Monk Institute in 2007.

During his time at the Monk Institute, Dingman had the opportunity to perform extensively with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. In November of 2005, they traveled with the Monk Institute ensemble on a U.S. State Department tour of Vietnam. The ensemble gave concerts and master classes in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. In January of 2007, he traveled again with Hancock, Shorter, and the Monk Institute ensemble, this time to Mumbai, Calcutta, New Delhi, and Agra, India, where they performed for capacity crowds and presented clinics at the Ravi Shankar Institute in Delhi and St. John's School in Mumbai.Teaching

In addition to performing, Chris is an active educator, working with students of all ages and levels for the past 15 years. His extensive teaching experience includes presenting master classes at conservatories and schools both nationally and internationally (including Miami-Dade College, Trinity College, Vancouver Jazz Festival, the National Conservatory of Vietnam, Staffeldsgate College in Oslo, Norway, and more), directing a summer music camp for students ages 11-18, leading jazz ensembles at the high school and middle school levels, and teaching group percussion classes for both children and adults."

-Chris Dingman Website (

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"Catherine Delaunay (born 31 October 1969) is a French jazz clarinet player and composer, best known as a leader of Y'en a qui manquent pas d'air. She is also a member of the French Laurent Dehors's big band "Tous Dehors".

"Catherine grew up in Brittany, France. She started studying the clarinet at the age of six in a local music school. At that time, she also studied the piano and percussions. Later on, she studied the piano (1978Đ1985) and drums (1991 and 1994). She studied music at the Conservatoire National de RŽgion de Rennes and Conservatoire National SupŽrieur de Musique et de Danse de Lyon and passed the (Jacques Di Donato's class, 1993), le (Jacques Aboulker's class, 1993), le Certificat d'Etudes ComplŽmentaires SpŽcialisŽes "Atelier instrumental du XXme sicle", (1993, Gilbert Amy, et le Certificat d'Etudes ComplŽmentaires SpŽcialisŽes de clarinet ancienne et chalumeau (Jean-Claude Veilhan, 1995).

From 1989 to 1995, she studied at the Conservatoire National SupŽrieur de Musique de Lyon (CNSMD). She studied the clarinet with Jacques Di Donato (she passed the Dipl™me National d'Etudes SupŽrieures Musicales of clarinet in 1993), Chamber Music with Jacques Aboulker (she passed the Certificat d'Etudes SpŽcialisŽes of chamber music in 1993), Contemporary music (she passed the Certificat d'Etudes ComplŽmentaires SpŽcialisŽes "Atelier instrumental du XXme sicle" in 1993), Composition, Musical Analysis and Harmony with Lo•c MalliŽ, and 5 keys clarinet and chalumeau with Jean-Claude Veilhan (she passed the Certificat d'Etudes ComplŽmentaires SpŽcialisŽes de clarinet ancienne et chalumeau in 1995). From 1991 to 1994, she also studied drums with Jean-Louis Mechali.

While studying ˆ the CNSMD, she already plays with Marc Perrone, Laurent Dehors á , Alain Blesing.

Catherine Delaunay leads and composes music for several bands. Just recently, she set to music poems by Malcolm Lowry for her new projects Sois patient car le loup, for which she also plays the clarinet and the diatonic accordion, John Greaves sings and plays the ukulele, Isabelle Olivier plays the harp, Thierry Lhiver plays the trombone, and Guillaume SŽguron plays the double bass). Since 2000, Catherine Delaunay has been leading and composing music for the French fanfare "Y'en a qui manquent pas d'air", in which she plays with Lionel Martin saxophones, Daniel Casimir trombone, Didier Havet sousaphone, et Tatiana Lejude drums.

Catherine Delaunay is also part of many other projects. She plays in duet with the saxophonist Pascal Van den Heuvel (saxophone), in duet with Tatiana Lejude (drums), et with the trio "Trio Plumes" with Edouard Ferlet et Beno”t Dunoyer de Segonzac. She also plays very regularly with Olivier Thomas (Tomassenko, with Olivier Thomas singing, Laurent Rousseau on guitar, Michel Massot on tuba and trombone, Etienne Plumer on drums), RŽgis Huby, and Laurent Dehors.

Catherine Delaunay also plays with dancers (Cie Clara Cornil á , Cie Thierry Thiež Niang), actors (Cie Tomassenko á á , Cie L'oeil du Tigre, "Les Valises", mise en scne HŽlne Arnaud, "Le Gris", mise en scne Pietro Pizzuti).

With Pierre Badaroux on the double bass, Catherine Delaunay also sets to music silent films like Les Aventures du prince Ahmed, of Lotte Reiniger, L'Homme ˆ la camŽra, of Dziga Vertov, La Fivre des Žchecs, of Vsevolod Pudovkin

Catherine Delaunay played with Daniel Goyone, Claude Tchamitchian, Serge Lazarevitch, Lucia Reccio, Denis Chancerel, Philippe Botta, Archimusic, Dave Burrell, Takayuki Kato, Nobuyoshi Ino, Yuri Kusetsov, Vladimir Volkoff, Bruno Tocanne..."

-Wikipedia (

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"Born in 1971 in Mulhouse, from the musical milieu of harmony orchestras, she studied at the Conservatory of Mulhouse, then at the CNSM of Paris (1st Prize of trombone 1992 and chamber music 1991) and Univer- sity Paris X Nanterre (Bachelor of Modern Letters). Attracted by the exploration of new repertoires, she completed her training by studying saqueboute with Franck Poitrineau, and followed some courses of contemporary improvisation notably with Yves Robert. Since 1997, she plays the old repertoire with ensembles La Fenice (Jean Tubéry), Concerto vocale (René Jacobs), Elyma (Gabriel Garrido), Akademia, Il Giardino Armonico, Doulce Mémoire, the Versailles Baroque Music Center, The Talens lyriques (Christophe Rousset), Les Meslanges (T.Van Essen). At the same time, she plays music today (creations by Vincent Bouchot, Etienne Rolin, Martin Matalon, Claude Barthélémy, Jeunes compositeurs concerts at Radio France, ensembles Ars Nova, Zellig, Berson-Aschour duo, Orchestra Poitou Charentes) . It finds more and more in the music resulting from the jazz and the improvisation a space of privileged expression. She plays in the projects of Dominique Pifarély (Dédales), Marc Ducret (Chronicles of the frozen sea and Real thing 3), Joëlle Léandre (Can you here me), Kent Carter (oratorios). She also accompanies poets on their texts, (Lucien Suel, Emmanuel Laugier, Claude Favre, Valerie Rouzeau). She develops personal and collective projects such as "Les Cannibales" with Vincent Boisseau and Julien Padovani (2005-2008), and currently the Quartet Tenements of clover (on poems by Emilly Dickinson) Merch "with Jean-Luc Foussat, Makoto Sato, Jean-Luc, Jean-Luc Mousset, Lucas Mousset and Jean-Luc Petit. Small.

Holder of the C.A. obtained at the age of 21, she teaches the trombone at the Conservatory with Regional Radiation of Poitiers"

-Christiane Bopp Website (

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Track Listing:

1. 39 08:02

2. Los Angeles Imaginary 05:43

3. Chimera 06:09

4. Alchimie 03:02

5. Ode to akLaff 06:23

6. Jeux d'Anches 05:00

7. Les Treize Soleils 05:36

8. Speed-Freeze (part 1) 09:49

9. Speed-Freeze (part 2) 08:43

10. Le Seuil (part 1) 07:58

11. Le Seuil (part 2) 04:30

Related Categories of Interest:

Pi Records
Improvised Music
Compositional Forms
Free Improvisation
Large Ensembles
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
European Improvisation, Composition and Experimental Forms
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music

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