Saturday, August 11, 2018

Steve Coleman and Five Elements - Live At The Village Vanguard Vol. 1 The Embedded Sets (Pi-Recordings, 2018)

The Village Vanguard in New York has been the host of some of the most momentous live jazz recordings from the likes of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, and alto saxophonist, composer and conceptualist Steve Coleman carves his name into that legacy with this excellent live album. He is accompanied by his band featuring Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Miles Okazaki on guitar, Anthony Tidd on bass and Sean Rickman on drums. Their performance opens with "Horda (First Set)" with Coleman's saxophone heralding the music's emergence into a fast paced, rhythmically charged track. The saxophone and trumpet whirl and dive, focusing on Coleman's tart alto sound that slices through the deep bass and drum foundation. The musicians coalesce for quick bursts of collective sound before spiraling out again into a feature for trumpet as the rest of the band percolates in support. The music stretches and flexes according to need, confidently pushing their unique brand of jazz forward. There is a crisp groove to "DJW (First Set) that the musicians lock into, providing the forward thrust necessary to push the horns out over some stellar guitar, bass and drums accompaniment. The trio bubbles rapidly, engaging with the horns, as Coleman launches a tightly wound and angular solo statement, in a powerful and exciting manner. Sturdy drumming, simultaneously soloing and supporting, pushes the rhythm into deeper and more complex territory, then leading to a rapid and powerful conclusion. "TWF (First Set)" is another potent and strong performance, with the musicians playing with grace and dignity, as crisp drumming accentuates Coleman's citrus flavored alto sound. The band plays together in a very clean fashion, never getting in one another's way or stumbling despite the complexity of the music. Finlayson's trumpet feature picks up on this spark to deliver a confident and declamatory solo statement of his own before handing off to the rhythm section for a short area of tightly interwoven sound, leading to a quintet collective improvisation and closing. Saxophone probing introduces "Figit Time" before the rest of the band comes tumbling into the sound in a madcap and exciting way, blooming into a wide ranging alto saxophone feature over undulating accompaniment. The drumming is spectacular along with the taut bass, providing the needed accelerate for Coleman's fire. "RM / Figit Time" keeps this flame alive on the second set, providing a medley that stretches for over sixteen minutes, beginning with subtle percussion and trumpet, playing with patience and fluidity. The rest of the band folds in and the music begins to gain sense of forcefulness with Coleman muscling into a solo setting, demonstrating his particular skill in creating high quality music in the moment. These are just some of the highlights of a lengthy and exciting double album that captures this band at the height of their powers, playing forward thinking and emotionally resonant modern jazz to a very lucky and appreciative audience. Live At The Village Vanguard Vol. I (The Embedded Sets) - amazon.com

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