Friday, December 17, 2021

Isaiah Collier and The Chosen Few - Cosmic Transitions (Division 81 Records, 2021)

Isaiah Collier and The Chosen Few are a powerful jazz unit featuring the leader on tenor and soprano saxophones, Michael Shekwoaga Ode on drums, Jeremiah Hunt on bass and Mike King on piano. Not lacking in confidence, they recorded this album at Rudy Van Gelder's studio on the anniversary of John Coltrane's birth. The album opens with an introductory section that seems like an incantation, setting the stage for the music to follow. There are bells, chanting, and clanking on metal pipes, creating quite an atmosphere before slashing cymbals drive up the intensity with heavy drumming, and finally mad squalls of free sounding jazz from the full group, ushering in "Part I. Forgiveness." They have ripe saxophone and drums driving the music forward, with strong bass and piano in support. It's not hard to make the Coltrane quartet comparison, but the group is making it's own way and their playing is fierce and genuine, not deritive. Rippling piano bass and drums take an interlude with the cascading keyboard leading the way, pouring at length over stoic bass and drums. "Part II: Humility" builds for soaring tenor saxophone, paring back to a long form improvisation from the rhythm trio. The music has a seventies McCoy Tyner on Milestone vibe going, heavy stuff, but very exciting. Collier's saxophone returns with a sharp cutting tone as he digs in playing with power and force, slowing to a gradual conclusion with a bass feature. Hunt's excellent bass playing continues on "Part III. Understanding" as the group develops a spiritual jazz focus, their playing reflective and thoughtful with buoyant bass playing as the centerpiece along with gentle piano chords and brushed percussion. This leads to a more piano focused section, with flourishes of colorful keyboard playing astride bass and drums, setting up the final minute for the saxophonist to re-enter, return to the main theme and conclude. "Part V. Mercury's Retrograde" has an exotic sounding, vaguely Eastern introduction before muscular drumming builds in to launch the group into space. They play an absolutely wild blend of tones and rhythms, that resolve into storming quartet jazz, just going for it - the sound of excitement. An interlude ensues for potent bass connecting surging piano and drums. The leader's soprano saxophone returns, questing through the musical maze and finding great success, emblematic of the sense of accomplishment and purpose that the group shows throughout this fine album.