Steve Lehman, Pi Recordings Begin Digital Relief Campaign


Steve Lehman’s Xenakis And The Valedictorian is the first of Pi Recordings’ digital releases aimed at providing assistance to performers who have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic.

(Photo: Courtesy Pi Recordings)

Pi Recordings, the New York label focused on avant sounds for the past two decades, has hit pause on its regular release schedule this year. But in an effort to provide a source of income for musicians who have lost work because of the coronavirus pandemic, the label is starting a digital campaign, where a new recording is scheduled to be posted to Bandcamp every two weeks.

Saxophonist Steve Lehman’s Xenakis And The Valedictorian, the first dispatch of the This Is Now: Love In The Time Of COVID series, was made available for pre-order on April 17; the full recording now is available. Recorded in his 2011 Honda CRV, the solo recording consists of short pieces performed on his 1973 Selmer Mark VI alto saxophone. Lehman wrote on Bandcamp that funds collected from the album would be donated to support musicians impacted by the pandemic, though other artists could opt to use the money to replace their own lost income.

“Part of this is just not knowing how long this is going to go on. ... Are we preparing to do this for two months, three months?” Pi label co-owner Seth Rosner wondered aloud over the phone last week. “So, right now, I think we’ve got enough [recordings] to carry us through about two months, and I kind of believe we’ll have no shortage of people reaching out to us [to contribute].”

So far, pianists Vijay Iyer and David Virelles and percussionist/pianist Tyshawn Sorey are set to be included in the series. Rosner said it’s possible that future releases, which are likely to remain digital-only recordings, could come from artists beyond the label’s immediate family.

“We did this because, just on an emotional level, we couldn’t deal with so much negativity,” Rosner said. “We began this label 20 years ago, and nobody told me this was gonna work. I wanted to get [Henry Threadgill’s] music out there. We wanted to make sure that the AACM was viewed in the manner we thought they should be viewed ... . Being proactive is in our DNA, and this was just an extension of that. And again, this is our family; these people are around us. I’m as close to these people as anyone else. I’m not going to sit back and just be like, ‘Man, that’s horrible. I’ll talk to you on the other side.’” DB

This story was updated May 18 to indicate Lehmans recording is available in full.

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