Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Lessman’

‘Love Poem’, the second video from Los Angeles-based instrumental outfit TEETHERS’ eponymous first EP; all the songs are from drummer Andrew Lessman’s book of compositions.​ Lessman is a drummer known in the L. A. underground for his chameleonic contributions to a roster of projects whose jazz, avant garde, and indie pop scenes don’t always intersect.

Watch the video here:

AA

Most of these pieces were written during Lessman’s days studying at the California Institute of the Arts under Wadada Leo Smith. This is also where Andrew met the irreverent psycho-talents who now 10 years later play on this first TEETHERS EP… sometimes it takes time to cultivate a group sound that does justice to the sound in one’s head. Joining Andrew in the studio on these recordings are: Graham Chapman on bass, guitarist Alexander Noise, Joe Sanata Maria and Ted Faforo on saxophones and Stefan Kac on tuba. Laced into this moody wordless music, like a delicious mushroom chocolate, is a humble nudge to look past the decaying fetters of our assumed boundaries and imagine new organizational forms.

Andrew grew up in a suburb of Chicago called Elgin with a single mom who worked as a dental hygienist. With no musicians in the immediate family, his musical awareness came from playing trombone in the middle school band and listening obsessively to Q101 (“Chicago’s Home for Alternative”).

At age eleven, after making fart noises on a rented trombone for a year, he received a $200 Hohner drum kit as a birthday reward, and promptly formed a Nirvana cover band with his buddy Jim. It was a good start, but at age thirteen everything changed. His mother had been fighting cancer for about six years and it spread out of control and took her life. It was decided that he and his sister would leave Illinois to go live with his jazz musician father in San Diego.

It was a painful loss, but dialectically embedded in this loss was opportunity for growth. On the first day of high school, he made fast friends with some punks on the quad who’d also just gotten some instruments, and they started a band called The Irrelevants. Through hardcore punk, they learned how to channel teen angst into volume and speed. They wore ugly homemade clothing, hated the government, smoked weed out of apples, and booked quite a bit of DIY shows.

At the same time, his dad was a professional gigging musician and his home was a constant hangout for many of the great players in the San Diego scene. His dad’s record collection confronted him with the confusing sounds of Miles’ “Kind of Blue”, Ornette’s “Shape of Jazz to Come”, Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, and Art Blakey’s “Freedom Rider”. These sounds were incredible, and his dad was there to help demystify it. Within a year of obsessively drumming along to those records on the same $200 Hohner kit, he started sitting in at his dad’s gigs, booking gigs of his own, and picking up lessons from local legends like Charles McPherson.

One of his dad’s friends, drummer and educator Duncan Moore, thought he would benefit from attending UCSD’s summer jazz camp, so he pulled a few strings to squeeze him in last minute. Since all lessons with the drum faculty were full, he was randomly given a lesson with Wadada Leo Smith, the iconoclast composer and trumpeter who in the 60s helped start the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). From this very first meeting, he permanently broke Andrew’s brain and got him thinking about composition. His advice on thinking beyond rhythm, melody and harmony to make creative use of musical form was like jumping from 3D to 4D. Andrew spent the next year shedding for college audition tapes and he ended up following Wadada to the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles.

26th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

LA instrumentalists Teethers, centred around drummer and composer Andrew Lessman, brings together an unusual fusion for their debut release. With contributions straddling jazz, avant garde, and indie pop, for Teethers, Lessman has brought together an eclectic lineup, consisting of Graham Chapman on bass, guitarist Alexander Noise, Joe Sanata Maria and Ted Faforo on saxophones and Stefan Kac on tuba. The results are, as you might expect, unusual.

There’s a smooth, jazzy, swingy pop vibe that permeates the EP#s three tracks, and as ‘Goose Chasing’ indicates, they can locks down a tidy groove and create music you can bop to, nod along to, even dance to… and then they’re more than capable of – and willing to – drive that train straight off a cliff into a wild frenzy of horn-driven discord and madness. This is bit a brief introduction that sets the scene for what Teethers are really all about: the twelve-minute ‘Monopoly on Violence / Mushroom dance’ is a multi-faceted, shifting exploration of rippling shades and expansive soundscapes.

It’s rambling, at times immensely proggy in a vintage sense, and at times it just can’t seem to make up its mind as it ambles and weaves hither and thither, a mellow jazz meandering that hits some frenzies peaks and altogether more sedate intersections. It’s one of those pieces that transitions enticing and irritating in a mere blink – and that’s not even a criticism. Condensing so many elements into its space, it’s difficult to keep up.

The third track, ‘Love Poem’ is seven-and-a-half minutes of dappled sunlight painted in music, with a clean, picked guitar chiming in a simple, hypnotic sequence that’s a post-rock / contemporary prog crossover laced with soft, delicate strings. It’s perhaps the most focused and conventionally coherent of the three compositions, on what is a fairly wide-ranging set – so wide-ranging that it’s not easy to immediately assimilate, and even more difficult to pin down – not just stylistically, but in the most basic terms of formulating an opinion. Is it any good? Do I like it? Does it matter? There’s certainly no doubting the technical proficiency on display here, and having the confidence and audacity to make music that straddles so many boundaries and genuinely challenges the listener is an achievement worthy of recognition.

AA

a3152339815_10