Five Elements at Play

Steve Coleman is wildly influential, but it’s always revealing to keep a few of his influences in mind when you’re head-bobbing to his band, Five Elements. There’s the frenetic imagination of Charlie Parker, Kool & the Gang’s knotty “Pneumonia,” the rhythms of human heartbeat patterns, the engrossing grooves of Cuba, and for a minute there while growing up, the zig-zag flight patterns of certain bees attracted to the sweet smell of the Afro Sheen he used in his hair. That kind of breadth has made the saxophonist’s various ensembles, all of which stem from the idiosyncratic sounds that Five Elements birthed in Fort Green in the ‘80s, resound with invention. Sit in front of the group and it’s hard not to be amazed at the number of ideas simultaneously in play. Innovations in momentum and flow are perhaps why the MacArthur Foundation dropped one of their “genius” grants on him a couple years ago. The 59-year-old conceptualist’s impact on the modern jazz scene seems to expand every year. Recent albums on the Pi label percolate with an irresistible interplay – odd for a half-sec; addictive once those tumblers click. By the time you waltz out of the show, your perspective on music may have change a bit.

 

Five Elements play the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 5

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