Personalities | Steve Coleman | Eighties | Jazz & Blues

(Alto saxophone, b. 1956)

Chicago native Coleman worked in funk and R&B bands before switching to jazz and learning under tenor sax great Von Freeman. He moved to New York in 1978 and worked with the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis Orchestra and Sam Rivers. He had a key tenure in the early to mid-1980s with Dave Holland before forming his own group, Five Elements, which blended solid funk rhythms with odd time signatures and Ornette Coleman-influenced angular lines.

Coleman was also a co-founder (with Greg Osby) of the Brooklyn-based M-Base Collective (short for ‘Macro-Basic Array Of Structured Extemporization’), whose ranks included such forward-thinking players as trumpeter Graham Haynes, bassist Lonnie Plaxico, tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas, trombonist Robin Eubanks, keyboardist Geri Allen and vocalist Cassandra Wilson. While enjoying high-profile sideman work with artists such as Sting and Abbey Lincoln, he went on to spearhead adventurous hybrid collaborations with rappers, Cuban percussionists and singers, with his bands Mystic Rhythm Society, Council of Balance and Five Elements.

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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