Steve Coleman and Five Elements | Harvesting Semblances and Affinities

Pi (2010)
By JON GARELICK  |  July 7, 2010
3.5 3.5 Stars

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Before digging into alto-saxophonist and composer Coleman's new disc, it's probably best to set aside for a moment the allusions to numerology and mysticism with which he surrounds it and just dig into the rhythms. The 53-year-old, R&B-bred Coleman has made a methodical study year by year, traveling to Ghana, Cuba, Brazil, and Indonesia, and his layered, precise, oomphing metrics are the glory of his music. Early on, he discovered that soloists could go almost anywhere if that rhythmic grounding were strong enough. Here, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Tyshawn Sorey hold down complex meters that are as funky as they are impossible to count; meanwhile, Coleman's alto, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, trombonist Tim Albright, and vocalist Jen Shyu spin a constantly shifting weave of counterpoint, foreground and background, everything held in balance by Coleman's writing. At times, as on that opening track, the rhythmic brawn becomes almost assaultive, but then there's a break for Shyu's idiosyncratic, invented-word, virtuoso singing, or the polyphony of Danish composer Per Nørgård's "Flos Ut Rosa Floruit," with its mediæval Latin text. Or Coleman will bust out with a blazing bebop alto solo. This is ferocious, perfectly poised music.

  Topics: CD Reviews , Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Steve Coleman and Five Elements
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