100 Jazz Profiles
1956 - present
Saxophonist. A prodigiously talented saxophonist, Coleman is also a theoriser and innovator, who has experimented with many ideas about improvisation, and has also investigated ancient philosophy, African music and Afro-Cuban music as areas for creative inspiration.
He grew up in Chicago and his principal influence became the veteran tenorist and jam-session host Von Freeman, although as a composer he was equally influenced by another saxophonist, Sam Rivers. In 1978 he came to New York, and worked with Rivers, David Murray, Cecil Taylor and other cutting edge figures, as well as the more mainstream Thad Jones-Mel Leiws band.
At one point Coleman busked on the streets with trumpeter Graham Haynes, and their music was absorbed into his subsequent band, the Five Elements, which he has led ever since. Underpinning their work was a new theory of structure for improvisation, called M-Base, and these ideas were developed by a loose collective that also involved Greg Osby, Cassandra Wilson, Geri Allen and Robin Eubanks among others.
He has a fondness for tight, funk rhythms, and Coleman's work has explored urban beats as much as ethnic roots. He separates his various projects by name, including the fusion-styled Metrics or his Mystic Rhythm Society, which involves Cuban musicians. His concerts are wide-ranging, often experimental, and always intensely musical. He has become increasingly involved in education, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Howard Mandel: Future Jazz (New York, Oxford University Press) 1999
Steve Coleman and the Five Elements: The Ascension to Light (BMG / RCA 74321742192)
Suggested track: Urban
Steve Coleman's official website - biography, interviews, album details, copious links
on radio 3
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