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Steve Coleman and Five Elements: The Mancy of Sound

Mark F. Turner By

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A saxophonist of a different order—part griot, theorist, numerologist, and incessant seeker of knowledge— Steve Coleman continues to forge new paths in creative music. He's influenced more of today's forward thinking artists than almost anyone in recent memory with his proven M-Base concepts. His critically acclaimed 2010 recording, Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi Recordings), was a welcome return to the spotlight, and the follow-up, The Mancy of Sound , is even more rewarding.

To explain Coleman's music is no small feat, of which the eight exhaustive compositions include interwoven syncopations, studies in astral concepts, labyrinthine counterpoint, and deep jazz roots. His longstanding Five Elements ensemble has evolved over the years; here it includes the open minds of exciting notables such as drummer Tyshawn Sorey, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and vocalist Jen Shyu, who execute these painstaking charts flawlessly, like threading strands of yarn, into a larger and more colorful tapestry.

The addition of a second drummer, Chris Persad Group, The Dautaj, Marcus Gilmore , Coquito, Fri, with Sorey, as well as percussionist Ramon Garcia Perez, adds yet another dimension—in particular, to the "Odú Ifá Suite" suite (originally created for M-Base alumnus, singer Cassandra Wilson). Its four themes (Fire, Earth, Air, and Water) are represented from the fiery exchange of sparring drums in "Fire—Ogbe" to the calming syncopation of "Water—Oyeku" with the flowing sounds of wordless lyrics and ethnic chants. The suite is contemporary yet primordial, extrapolating symbolization and philosophical principals from the Yoruba-speaking people of West Africa.

More than just a conceptualist, Coleman is also fierce performer who delivers darting runs that are equally fluid, and incisive—a word that describes each of these talented musicians. There are points throughout the album where the array of instruments comes together in harmonious cacophony, like the alignment of planets. The analogies carry deeper meanings in "Jan 18" and "Noctiluca (Jan 11)"—two works based on the eight lunar phases, as viewed from a specific place at particular moments. What will Coleman think of next? Maybe only the stars will tell.

Track Listing: Jan 18; Formation 1; Fire-Ogbe [Odú Ifá Suite]; Earth-Idi [Odú Ifá Suite]; Air-Iwori [Odú Ifá Suite]; Water-Oyeku [Odú Ifá Suite]; Formation 2; Noctiluca (Jan 11).

Personnel: Steve Coleman: alto saxophone; Tim Albright: trombone; Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Marcus Gilmore: drums; Thomas Morgan: bass; Ramon Garcia Perez: percussion; Jen Shyu: vocals;

Title: The Mancy of Sound | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Pi Recordings

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