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Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Harvesting Semblances and Affinities

Steve Coleman has been serving up complicated, beguiling musical math for nearly a quarter century, from his early work with the M-Base scene beginning in the mid-’80s through his various projects with his group Five Elements. By now, we’ve grown accustomed to the weave and flow of his intricate rhythmic and polyrhythmic designs, as heard in its latest evolutionary phase on his fine new album, Harvesting Semblances and Affinities. Funky, heady, spiritual and cosmic, with references to astrology, Yoruban religion and more purely musical references, Coleman’s latest-his first for the venturesome Pi label, and his first American album in nine years-reasserts the musician’s importance in the larger scheme of jazz, and in music in general.

This cohesively organized sequence of seven pieces opens with “Attila 02 (Dawning Ritual)” and closes with “Vernal Equinox 040320-0149 (Initiation),” and the middle passage is the fourth and longest piece, “060706-2319 (Middle of Water).” As a player, Coleman’s alto sax is a bracingly fluid and centering voice in an ensemble which is generally more concerned with cohesion than with individual glories, although Coleman, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and trombonist Tim Albright are all fine, probing soloists in their own rights, and bassist Thomas Morgan’s ambling work tethers and rumbles from below.

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