Restoring jazz to its rightful place
Steve Coleman is, along with David Murray, his generation's Ornette Coleman pushing, always pushing the form, always testing the limits, and always doing so with a larger vision of the music.
Like Ornette, Steve Coleman no relation, by the way plays alto saxophone. And while Steve is a fine player, the instrument seems almost incidental to his music. He's like Duke Ellington in that way, more of a conductor and composer than an instrumentalist (although Ellington was a hell of a piano player).
Coleman's latest releases collectively comprise a three-disc box set recorded a couple years ago in Paris, although they can also be purchased individually. The three discs ("Myths, Modes & Means," "The Way of the Cipher" and "Curves of Life") find Coleman fronting three different combos: the Mystic Rhythm Society, Metrics and Five Elements, respectively. As with his earlier M-Base Collective, Coleman's newest discs find him still playing an urban, pulsating jazz that incorporates rap and hip-hop. Like much contemporary music from the inner city, this has a hard edge to it and an underlying anger. And as with all good art, that anger, that emotion, is kept in check and used to give the performance a fine edge.
This is not music for the timid; it is loud, brassy and muscular, and Coleman often uses dissonance and discomfiting harmonies. But it sure swings, and shows jazz as again, finally reflective of the music of young black Americans.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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