Saturday, November 06, 2021

Steve Coleman and the Five Elements - Live at the Village Vanguard Volume II (MDW NTR) (Pi Recordings, 2021)

Recorded in May of 2018 this album presents the group one year further along than Volume One, with the band now consisting of the leader, Steve Coleman on alto saxophone, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Kokayi on spoken word vocals, Anthony Tidd on bass and Sean Rickman on drums. Coming off of a period of lengthy touring and given a full week at the Vanguard, the band was ready to make their statement. "Menes to Midas" opens the album with some solo saxophone playing along side a bass pattern, with gradual build up from a further horn and drums. Coleman solos over thick bass, tight drums, engages with trumpet who takes control. There is spoken word rhyme, where the band comps behind, then intricate full band playing to finish. Coleman uses a mild, lengthy and restrained solo saxophone exploration to open "Unit Fractions." The bass enters along with the spoken word artist, and really amps up the tempo, launching Coleman to a complex, cascading saxophone solo, propelled by insistent drumming. Finlayson's trumpet adds nice tones to the overall package, and the full band groove is excellent, moving toward the finish. "Little Girl I'll Miss You" joins saxophon to long trumpet probing ramping up quite gradually around anchoring bass. Vocalist scats with saxophone, he gets dynamic leading into the epic suite "Compassion (drum solo) - Ascending Numeration - DeAhBo (Reset)" which has a direct lead in to a fine and fast drum feature as the rest of the band holds and then kicks in very fast. There is another fine driving trumpet solo, with excellent tone, locked into the boiling bass and drums for maximum effect. The lengthy performance mines an excellent seam with the full band paling with Kokayi's fast, great control of vocals, words and percussion with occasional horn riffs. "Pad Thai-Mdw Ntr" is deceptively subtle… then spiraling as the band is gaining momentum, very much communal and collective, each piece having a purpose, the vocalist is very declarative pushing out the words over a solid groove. There is quick band introduction, then Coleman dives back in with a lightning fast angular saxophone solo, leading to a rousing conclusion. Crisp drumming opens "9 to 5," leading to rapid progress, with the band running hot, presenting blistering jazz in a saxophone bass and drums setting. The vocalist stretching out equally fast, enunciating clearly despite speed in a very impressive manner, leading to a trumpet improvisation is equally skilled, buoyed by elastic bass and drums. "Mdw Ntr" uses a slinky mid tempo bass which works well, giving the music a nice groove, Finlayson's trumpet adding punchy additions underneath the vocalist, after which the band develops an admirable collective improvisation. "Rumble Young Man Rumble" features Kokayi, the vocalist, dives right in to open the track laying out a complex linear narrative performance and carries on with the band in support, then breaking out into a very bright toned Coleman feature, that is well into integrated full band interplay. Fading in is the final massive track "9 to 5 - Mdw Ntr" reprising some of the earlier themes performed in this set but using them as a springboard for a massive twenty one minute exploration. The group makes their closing argument here, as it were, presenting their undeniable instrumental and vocal talent, and their ability to weave together impressively as a unit for both collective improvisation and in order to support each other and the music itself. Live at the Village Vanguard Volume II (Mdw Ntr) -

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