Saxophonist Steve Coleman Sublimely Elemental At Paris Showcase

 Coleman

As Britain attempts what seems like an ungainly improvisation out of Europe, American artists more adept at the art are thankfully still finding a way into the old continent. With his residency at La Petite Halle (a well-appointed restaurant in the vast cultural centre of La Villette in Paris) extending for no less than two weeks, Chicago alto saxophonist-composer Steve Coleman appears a cipher of a more worthwhile politics against the backdrop of Brexit and Great Britannia, be it an ally of rulers or an enemy of rules.

The double-bill this evening features two very different groups that flag up both the breadth of Coleman's output and the depth of his artistry. Yet the intensity of the audience reaction reflects the substantial impact he has made in France since the late 1980s, which was duly enhanced by the memorable Hot Brass sessions of the mid-1990s. He is very much a known quantity here. Numerous workshops and master classes have strengthened his ties with local musicians and the fact that there is more or less a French version of one of his latest ensembles, Natal Eclipse, underlines as much. As the new album Morphogenesis makes clear the band is both a departure from and reinforcement of core Coleman principles. The absence of drums lightens the overall palette, yet there is a momentum and intricacy in the horn scores that bear the hallmarks of the leader's approach to writing and arranging. Melodies are often very rhythmic with phrases that move from lengthy, fluid undulations to more contained, terse lines, that underline the long-held love Coleman, whose alto solos throughout the set are as pithy as they are potent, has of all things staccato as well as allegro. There is both a beauty and austerity in the work, but the input of the French players joining Coleman, and fellow Americans trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and electric pianist Matt Mitchell, is sadly marred by a mix that leaves their contributions close to the edge of silence. The clarinet, in this instance played by Catherine Delaunay, is virtually swallowed whole by the other reeds, which is a great shame as the instrument has a key timbral role on Morphogenesis insofar as it brings a gauzy, malleable character to the ensemble voice. Having said that, Selene Saint-Aime's often spare, distilled basslines, sometimes hingeing on no more than two pitches, are very effective insofar as they lend a pleasing floating, gliding quality to the music.

ColemanRap

If Natal Eclipse is air then The Metrics are earth and fire. The group with close to three decades of history has seen personnel changes, yet its conceptual substance remains unchanged: an exploration of rhythm with a hard edge in terms of sound, particularly low frequencies. The combination of Sean Rickman's drums, with those tinder dry offbeats on the snare and Anthony Tidd's imperious drive on the bass, is not so much a solid foundation as a kind of endlessly revolving, if not rotating floor for material whose structural complexities are not incompatible with the ability of the band to move the crowd. Originally The Metrics toured with a dancer called Laila and within minutes of their arrival those hovering at the bar are loosening up and getting down. In odd meters. The head spun numbers games or difficult-to-spot start and endpoints in the life cycle of a phrase may stem from Coleman's artful, mathematical mind yet there is no absolute break with what might pass for popular culture. Whether you call it blues, funk or hip hop, the inventions of black music beholden to Coleman's hometown of Chicago and his adopted city New York are really a part of his wider vocabulary insofar as these genres present priceless raw materials in both rhythm and timbre. We hear the ghosts of James Brown and Maceo Parker and, most importantly, the living spirit of Kokayi, one of the three MCs from the original Metrics ensemble, who frankly steals the show on many an occasion. Largely unknown beyond his work with Coleman and Andy Milne's Dapp Theory, Kokayi is arguably one of the most dynamic and creative rappers in contemporary hip hop, yet to assign him solely to the genre would be a mistake. His brilliance lies in the unforced ease with which he shuttles between rapping and singing, so that his voice becomes a mighty, all-terrain vehicle, which is particularly effective for Coleman's music given its tendency to cross the line between what might be called swinging and grooving. The sound soars upward to gospelised soprano and also dives deep into burly baritone sub-sonics, a dark, dense wedge of tone that commands the whole venue. Coleman ends the evening singing a few lines, which, in turn, act as a springboard for the rest of the band. The building blocks are gradually, but decisively, assembled and enriched. As with many Coleman pieces counterpoint is prominent, and the interlocking, weaving and criss-crossing of patterns, their hypnosis engineered by the metronomic precision of the drums and bass, in particular, once again elicits a new burst of energy from the dancers. All of which makes for a fascinating debate about music for head, heart and feet. The dividing lines between the serious and the funkulous are brilliantly blurred.

– Kevin Le Gendre
– Photos by Dimitri Louis

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Elaine Mitchener Delivers Dramas Of Defiance At St. George's, London

Elaine Mitchener Delivers Dramas Of Defi…

This Hawksmoor church in Bloomsbury is by no means familiar...

Read More.....
Peter Lemer Quintet revive Local Colour at Pizza Express

Peter Lemer Quintet revive Local Colour …

When composer and pianist Peter Lemer recorded Local Colour in...

Read More.....
Dave Holland and Evan Parker line-up for Vortex Fundraiser ahead of new album

Dave Holland and Evan Parker line-up for…

Two of British jazz's biggest names – former Miles Davis...

Read More.....
Get The Blessing’s ‘Bristopolis’, Dame Evelyn Glennie and Pee Wee Ellis for Bristol Jazz & Blues Fest

Get The Blessing’s ‘Bristopolis’, Dame E…

The programme for the sixth edition of the Bristol Jazz...

Read More.....
Courtney Pine, Zara McFarlane and Evan Parker added to full Cheltenham Jazz Fest line-up

Courtney Pine, Zara McFarlane and Evan P…

The full programme has been revealed for this year's edition...

Read More.....
Daring Dutch drummers Han Bennink and Joost Lijbaart for UK dates

Daring Dutch drummers Han Bennink and Jo…

Heavyweight Dutch jazz bands Quartet NL and Under the Surface...

Read More.....
GoGo Penguin bring the beats to the Roundhouse

GoGo Penguin bring the beats to the Roun…

GoGo Penguin, the Blue Note-signed Manchester piano trio whose fusion...

Read More.....
Sugimoto Activity Surge: Studio News and UK Dates

Sugimoto Activity Surge: Studio News and…

Phantasm of fragmentary restraint, Japanese guitarist Taku Sugimoto, jostles with...

Read More.....
Vula Viel electrify Elgar Room

Vula Viel electrify Elgar Room

What do Swaledale in North Yorkshire and Western Ghana have...

Read More.....
Courtney Pine heads-up Jazz For Labour in Leatherhead

Courtney Pine heads-up Jazz For Labour i…

Having blown up a storm at the inaugural 2015 Jazz...

Read More.....
Andrew McCormack's Graviton Hit The Ground Running At Ronnie's

Andrew McCormack's Graviton Hit The Grou…

  The acoustic at Soho's iconic venue changes quite considerably according...

Read More.....
Jaimie Branch, Moor Mother and Jeff Parker Among the Acts at Austin's Sonic Transmissions Fest

Jaimie Branch, Moor Mother and Jeff Park…

  Texan Templars of outlier audio releases, Astral Spirits, have combined...

Read More.....
Zakir Hussain Crosscurrents, Parliament-Funkadelic, Tony Allen, Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia announced for Love Supreme

Zakir Hussain Crosscurrents, Parliament-…

The first tranche of names to appear across the Love...

Read More.....
Saxophonist Roberts Braves The Outlands

Saxophonist Roberts Braves The Outlands

US saxophonist and composer Matana Roberts, arguably best known for...

Read More.....
Helena Kay leads Women In Jazz celebration at 100 Club

Helena Kay leads Women In Jazz celebrati…

Ella, Nina, Billie, Dee Dee – figures so distinguished that...

Read More.....
Alex Hitchcock/Tom Barford Quartet's Twin Tenor Frontline Fires At The Verdict

Alex Hitchcock/Tom Barford Quartet's Twi…

The twin tenors tradition has a long history, stretching back...

Read More.....
Award-winning bassist Gary Crosby OBE recovering following a stroke

Award-winning bassist Gary Crosby OBE re…

Jazzwise received this statement from Trudy Lister of Tomorrow's Warriors...

Read More.....
Clark Tracey and Brotherhood of Breath - The Music Of Chris McGregor Among The Manifold Delights At South Coast Jazz Fest

Clark Tracey and Brotherhood of Breath -…

Last week saw the highly successful South Coast Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Caine Sprouts Chamber Music Chomps At Ambitious Brussels Fest

Caine Sprouts Chamber Music Chomps At Am…

  One of the Brussels Jazz Festival's best gigs came three days...

Read More.....
Nubya Garcia, Maisha and Triforce surf new wave of UK jazz at We Out Here album launch

Nubya Garcia, Maisha and Triforce surf n…

Like all the best creative scenes, London's emergent and youthful...

Read More.....
Høiby And Kinch Lead Brits Charge At Brussels Jazz Fest

Høiby And Kinch Lead Brits Charge At Bru…

There were three dominant artist groupings during the Brussels Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Video Premiere: Fire! Take Hold With 'The Hands'

Video Premiere: Fire! Take Hold With 'Th…

Check out Martin Malm’s psychotropic Brakhage-influenced flicks for ‘The Hands’...

Read More.....
Earth, Wind & Fire confirmed for Love Supreme Jazz Festival 2018

Earth, Wind & Fire confirmed for Lov…

The organisers of this year's sixth edition of the Love...

Read More.....
Simon H Fell: Raggedy And Rhapsodic At Kings Place

Simon H Fell: Raggedy And Rhapsodic At K…

The image that graces the souvenir booklet of Kings Place's...

Read More.....
Theon Cross and Shirley Tetteh join Courtney Pine for Inner City Ensemble

Theon Cross and Shirley Tetteh join Cour…

Following the announcement that multi-award winning saxophonist and composer Courtney...

Read More.....
Paul Towndrow presents Charlie Parker with Strings for Glasgow concert series

Paul Towndrow presents Charlie Parker wi…

Fresh interpretations of the landmark Charlie Parker with Strings recordings...

Read More.....
Hugh Masekela (04/04/1939 – 23/01/2018)

Hugh Masekela (04/04/1939 – 23/01/2018)

As South Africa continues its development in the post-apartheid era...

Read More.....
South Coast Jazz Festival Crests The Big Wave

South Coast Jazz Festival Crests The Big…

  Now in its fourth year, the South Coast Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Julian Lage brings Appalachian jazz apocalypse to Pizza Express

Julian Lage brings Appalachian jazz apoc…

Perhaps it's a canny coincidence that's there's a tune on...

Read More.....
Marlene Verplanck 1933-2018

Marlene Verplanck 1933-2018

  On stage, Marlene Verplanck stood quite still, diminutive and always...

Read More.....
Sons of Kemet burn at New York’s Winter Jazzfest

Sons of Kemet burn at New York’s Winter …

Winter Jazzfest is a big deal in New York City...

Read More.....
Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quartet captivate at Kings Place

Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quart…

The conventions of a jazz performance are so well established...

Read More.....
Baptiste Curates Capital Coltrane Day

Baptiste Curates Capital Coltrane Day

Award-winning saxophonist and Jazzwise 2017 end-of-year-chart podium-maker Denys Baptiste curates...

Read More.....
Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Andy Sheppard, Nigel Kennedy and Roller Trio added to Cheltenham Jazz Festival line-up

Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Andy Sheppar…

Things are hotting up for this year's 22nd edition of...

Read More.....
Cloudmakers Five make it rain with new album and tour

Cloudmakers Five make it rain with new a…

Vibrant vibes-led group Cloudmakers – the long-running trio featuring vibes...

Read More.....


Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

Elaine Mitchener Delivers Dramas Of Defiance At St. George's, London https://t.co/n8JLsBikZW @ElaineMitchener… https://t.co/PDWcAEBv0N
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Hasidic New Wave and Yakar Rhythms at Littlefield, Brooklyn, NY https://t.co/HbkYnrCfYb @littlefieldnyc @WMInyc… https://t.co/0zQgU9Hpsy
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

Sign up to the Jazzwise monthly E-Newsletter

 

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA