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I had the good fortune of running into Kenji Aihara at the Guitar Czar store, who initially told me about this show, and then later my good friend Alisanne mentioned it to me a few days before. I’m grateful, because it’s rare for me to see my favorite players in Utah perform together.

In this context it was Steve Lyman ( drums ) and his quintet, performing with Russel Schmitd (piano), Kenji Aihara (guitar), Denson Angulo (bass), and David Halliday (sax). They opened with “Medowlark” a beautiful tune from the recording “Revolver” that was released by Steve. Revolver is a great album, and everyone who I talk to who has heard it agree with me.

The venue at the Gallivan Center is great, and sound support was refreshingly good at supporting the instruments rather than showing off the the sound gear. It was a smaller venue with limited seating, close and intimate with comfortable sound and chairs.

The players are amazing, and Steve shines in this setting, with players stating ideas in their solos that Steve quickly incorporates into his playing, starting a feedback loop between the two players that often reaches out and extends into the entire rhythm section. These players have such big ears and they really were pulling into each others playing with great camaraderie.

Russ’s solos are very phrase oriented, and he has a certain mastery over the form of the song to detach the rhythmic ideas presented in his phrases with the melodic. the rhythms often extend over the end of expected time forms (bar lines) into the next section with ease where they often extend upward in melody, to great effect when he eventually resolves the line. I particularly liked his solo in the finale tune “Au Privave” where he quoted other melodies from blues standards by weaving them in and out with great skill.

Kenji is nothing short of a master of the ear with amazing ability to change technique flawlessly whether comping or soloing. He was able to fade, scratch, hammer, pick, notes at will always with amazing technical ability. I love listening to Kenji as he is constantly listening for a new sound, while still retaining his identity . This time with a Fender telecaster and a Polytone amp. He at some points pulled from his guitar a sound reminding me of Bill Frisell, but his lines were always identifiable as Kenji.

Denson continues to progress, and every time I hear him, he is at a new level of playing. An incredible soloist on an instrument that is extremely difficult to play well, he and Steve have a dialog between them that blurs the lines separating the two instruments.

Steve is so fun to listen to. He is doing things on drums that I haven’t heard much of in this City, and he seems to be pulling from some of my favorite new drummers from NYC in a movement that steps out of the grid of playing right on top of the beat, to playing in front, and behind, and even in both places at the same time. He is always in touch with the soloists, is some cases I wonder if they could even escape him, as his is ear is always inviting a dialog to talk amongst the members of the rhythm section – rather than leaving the soloist remain autonomous.

Finally, with the amazing technique of David Halliday – this band rounds out as such a great sound, they all seemed to genuiely enjoy the time on the stage with each other, and the audience did too. I really enjoyed this concert and hope the “Excellence in the Community” series at the Galivan continues and is successful.

Here is the first couple of minutes from the song 29/8

Steve Lyman Quintet at the Excellence in the Community Series