Functional Arrhythmias, by Steve Coleman and Five Elements (Pi Recordings)

11 May

Alto sax Steve Coleman is a highly conceptual artist who enjoys combining his interests outside the music realm with his compositional research. This time, he focuses on the relationship “between the human soul, biology and music” and, in particular, the various rhythms of the biological systems. 

His velocity and fluid articulation could land him the title of the archetypical 21st century bebopper, but this time his delivery is more closely connected to the rich and complex backdrop supplied by drummer Sean Rickman and electric bassist Anthony Tidd who are both making their return with Five Elements. Resisting the impetus to rush, Coleman and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson are measured as if they constantly search and probe – never following a straight line – the best path to navigate over Rickman’s polyrhythms and Tidd’s supple yet muscular bass lines.

More than a dozen-year partnership has enabled Coleman and Finlayson to seal a special bond. It is utterly impressive to hear both men so closely attuned while dealing with the complex  rhythmic requirements of the material. It is almost as if they were connected by an invisible umbilical tie. Whether they work in unison, part ways, or solo, Coleman and Finlayson follow the same modus operandi and their interplay is almost of telepathic nature.

On about a third of the tracks, guitarist Miles Okazaki joins the quartet, but his presence neither detracts from the performance nor enhances it. His contributions have more to do with a duplication of the process. Only on “Lymph Swag (Dance of the Leukocytes)” does he make an impression and affect the mood by switching to his distinctive nylon-string guitar. 

Alain Drouot

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