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Steve Coleman

 B i o g r a p h y

Steve Coleman (born 20 September 1956) is an American saxophone player, spontaneous composer, composer and band leader.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Coleman moved to New York in 1978 and has lived in the NY area since that time. Although he has led several groups over the years, his main group 'Steve Coleman and Five Elements' began in 1981 and is still active today.

He was one of the founders of the so-called M-Base movement, has lead several groups, and has recorded extensively. Initially influenced by saxophonists Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Chicago legend Von Freeman and Bunky Green, Coleman has performed and recorded with Thad Jones, Sam Rivers, drummer Doug Hammond, Cecil Taylor, Abbey Lincoln and Dave Holland. He has incorporated many elements from folkloric music from the African Diaspora fused with musical ideas influenced by ancient metaphysical concepts. He has stated that his main concern is the use of music as a language of sonic symbols used to express the nature of man's existence.

Coleman's work around 1990, such as Black Science, is unusual for its indefinite meter. He achieves this by having each instrumentalist playing in a different meter, generally itself irregular such as 7/4 or 11/4. The resulting music has a funk feel to it, but with a freedom from the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic predictability of funk. This distorted likeness to popular music brought Coleman new audiences which he was not averse to seeking, as described in an interview in Down Beat Magazine where he mentions himself telling club owners who wanted punk (or some other popular genre), "That's what we play." A highlight of this period, the recording The Tao of Mad Phat (fringe zones), recorded with a studio audience, moves closer to conventional funk by using regular meters while still retaining Coleman's imaginative use of melody and harmony.

Coleman does not agree with using categories to describe music today, in particular he does not use the term jazz. Preferring a more organic approach to music he uses the term Spontaneous Composition. According to Coleman there extends back into ancient times musicians who have attempted to express through music the various visions and realities that they perceive, and for him this is the driving force behind many of the ‘so-called’ innovations in music (and indeed in other fields as well). He feels that the various tools and fields of inquiry that people have used (physics and metaphysics, number, language, music, dance, astronomy, etc.) are all related and present one holistic body of work. The various forms that his music assumes are not only intuitively inspired by but intuitively and logically determined by the human perception of ‘The Great Work’ (i.e. the creation of all Nature by the Universal Mind). Although this may seem a lofty goal, it has occupied the minds of humans for millennia.

One of the primary methods that Coleman uses to create his music is linked to two concepts: Sacred Geometry (the use of shapes to symbolically express natural principles), and Energy (the potential for change and change itself in physical, metaphysical and psychic phenomena, including Life, Growth, etc.). Coleman uses various kinds of musical structures to symbolize the Sacred Geometry and specific kinds of musical movement to reference the various states of Energy. In any event the concept of Change seems to be central to his theory. He has stated that it is the Change between the various musical structures that is the important element, not the structures themselves. In this he disagrees with many musical theories currently being taught in institutions of higher learning. Coleman believes that it is through the Spontaneous Composition of forms that these ideas can be most readily expressed, regardless of external stylistic appearances. A frequent statement of his is “it is the movement that is important”.

These ideas, although rare, are not new in music. There have been musicians from virtually every culture that have worked in these areas, as is documented in the earliest writings on music. Musicians as diverse as Johann Sebastian Bach, Béla Bartók and John Coltrane have stated similar ideas.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 A l b u m s

Resistance is Futile (Label Bleu, 2001)