Andrew Lessman is a drummer known around the LA underground for his contributions to a wide net of projects in the jazz, indie pop, and avant garde scenes. TEETHERS is the vehicle for his book of compositions.
Andrew grew up in a suburb of Chicago called Elgin with a single mom who worked as a dental hygienist. With no musicians on that side of the family, he started off 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 a big opportunity to grow. 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 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 pro 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 confounding sounds of Miles’ “Kind of Blue”, Ornette’s “Shape of Jazz to Come”, Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, and Art Blakey’s “Freedom Rider”. The depth of that music began to take hold, 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, decided 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 in order to use musical form as an expressive tool was like a 3D to 4D move. 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.
It was there that he met the beastly talents who now 10 years later play on the first TEETHERS EP. Some of these compositions date back to those college years – it can take time and patience to cultivate a group sound that does justice to the sound in one’s head. Like a psilocybic teething biscuit, these moody tone poems are designed to clear paths to organizational forms beyond the dusty fetters of common sense.
Aside from TEETHERS, Andrew enjoys blasting beats with his best mates NOICE, Billy Uomo, Polartropica, The Vinny Golia Sextet, Matt Kivel, Timur Bekbusonov, and others.