446

Steve Coleman: Lucidarium

By

Sign in to view read count
Steve Coleman
Lucidarium
Label Bleu
2004

Jazz Composer and Performer as Philosopher...

These thoughts were triggered by the impossibility for me of reviewing the notable new album Lucidarium by Steve Coleman and his band, the Five Elements. Normally, someone who has spent over twenty years reviewing jazz albums would not make a big fuss in print about the inability to write an album review. In this instance, the feeling of being inadequate to the task of an album review is instructive and stimulating, not merely an admission of personal incompetence.

Lucidarium is a type of jazz oratorio, comparable only to extended compositions by Duke Ellington (Black, Brown and Beige, A Drum Is a Woman), Charles Mingus (The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady) and Anthony Braxton ( Composition No. 96 ). I would also suggest a context for Coleman's recording by placing it in the same musical universe as the late symphonies of Charles Ives as well as the operas of Wagner. Lucidarium within the context of Coleman's prodigious recorded output should be thought of as part of a four part epic, beginning with The Sign and the Seal: Transmissions of a Metaphysics of a Culture, Genesis & The Opening of the Way, and The Sonic Language of Myth.

These four albums share an extraordinary tapestry of neo-funk rhythmic play, post bop flavored individual and group improvisation, and a strong compositional structure grounded in complex storytelling. The stories Coleman's stories tell are deeply philosophical and spiritual parables drawn from Egyptian, African, Caribbean, and American sources. They are open-ended stories full of mystery. Listening deeply to Steve Coleman's recordings is like trying to decipher a wall of Egyptian hieroglyphs by flickering candle light without knowledge of the language. This is not jazz that is light entertainment - but it is not strictly cerebral either, in spite of the remarkably deep intellect of the music's creator. For all of the philosophical underpinnings of the music, it is clearly performed with enormous passion. And it swings.

To reduce the musical riches of Lucidarium to a concise jazz review seems wrong-headed. There is simply too much happening, and one need only remember the absurdly superficial reviews of Coltrane's Ascension and Meditations in the jazz Press of the 60s to realize the folly of reviewing concisely musical works demanding essay or book-length treatment. Suffice it to say that Lucidarium, like all of Coleman's major albums, is a musical odyssey mapping a profound philosophical and spiritual search for truths about the nature of the universe. It is quite listenable as it proceeds through ten movements executed by nineteen musicians. Instruments rarely heard in today's jazz, viola and harmonica, for example, played magnificently respectively, by Mike Maneri and Gregoire Maret, are showcased. Coleman's alto sax solos are consistently thoughtful and probing, as are the tenor sax explorations of Ravi Coltrane.

Look, I'm trying to write a review of Lucidarium , teasing with praising the album within a standard review format. But something resists, particularly since Coleman's recordings are so emphatically more than the simple sum of individual musicians soloing. This is jazz as the deepest form of intellectual quest and spiritual prayer. It cannot be simply summarized. It demands being experienced on multiple levels, and demands rapt and total attention from the listener. Those who hear Lucidarium with such concentration will receive their reward. Coleman may never receive his just reward from the majority of jazz critics who set their sights much lower than does Coleman. But Coleman's reward must be that of the most intrepid of musical experimentalists. Coleman knows the thrill of composing jazz that is, to borrow a famous book title, as serious as your life.


Tracks: 1. Ten Steppin' (Door to the Sixty), 2. Lucidarium (Beyond Doors), 3. Plagal Transitions, 4. Meditations on Cardinal, 5. Kabbalah, 6. Beyond All We Know, 7. Diasporatic Transitions I, 8. Diasporatic Transitions II, 9. Egypt to Crypts in Hieroglyphs, 10. Perspicuity

For more information about Steve Coleman, visit www.m-base.com .

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Label Bleu


Shop

More Articles

Read Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight Extended Analysis Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix) Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome Extended Analysis The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 27, 2016
Read Nat Birchall: Creation Extended Analysis Nat Birchall: Creation
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Tony Williams: Life Time" Extended Analysis Tony Williams: Life Time
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: July 12, 2016
Read "Yes: Tales from Topographic Oceans (Definitive Edition)" Extended Analysis Yes: Tales from Topographic Oceans (Definitive Edition)
by John Kelman
Published: October 8, 2016
Read "U.K.: Ultimate Collectors' Edition" Extended Analysis U.K.: Ultimate Collectors' Edition
by John Kelman
Published: September 25, 2016
Read "Nat Birchall: Creation" Extended Analysis Nat Birchall: Creation
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Neil Young & The Promise of The Real: Earth" Extended Analysis Neil Young & The Promise of The Real: Earth
by Doug Collette
Published: June 19, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!