Alto saxophonist Steve Lehman may not be a world-known jazz player, but his new album, On Meaning, certainly puts him on par of many more famous musicians. Lehman combines the avant-garde influences of teachers Jackie McLean and Anthony Braxton, but opens up the free jazz template with a strong, contemporary groove, and over the course of 45 minutes produces intricate and refreshingly accessible music.

Lehman uses a many-sided methodology on the eight tracks, fluctuating from multi-tempo forays such as complex and cryptic “Haiku d’Etat Transcription” to meditative moments like “Great Plains of Algiers,” which fuses exotic percussive ambience with ghostly minimalism.

While Lehman’s peers in the frequently misunderstood M-Base collective often mash-up electro-acoustic elements, throughout On Meaning, Lehman shows strictly acoustic formalist compositions can have brains and a human, emotive core.

Grade: B

On Meaning is currently available.