By James Hale | Published September 2017
On Morphogenesis, his 30th album as a leader, saxophonist Steve Coleman introduces yet another element to his ever-evolving sonic universe: a chamber group of complementary instruments, as well as a percussionist on five of the nine pieces.
One of the most inspiring things about Coleman is the way he has continued to evolve while maintaining the foundation of motivic cells and melodic interactivity that defined his M-Base philosophy in the 1980s. From his earliest recordings with Five Elements to his more recent ensembles with vocalist Jen Shyu and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, Coleman has created music for both mind and body.
In the ultimate melding of mental process and physicality, Coleman takes inspiration from boxing for five compositions on this disc. Like Miles Davis, who dedicated a handful of studio concoctions to his favorite boxers, Coleman doesn’t attempt to mimic the movement of the sport; rather, pieces like “Dancing And Jabbing” have layers of activity and counter-movement. Precision, speed and power mirror the essences of combat in the ring.
Created live in the studio, “NOH” and “SPAN” stand apart from the boxing-inspired compositions and the album’s centerpiece, the 14-minute “Morphing.” Built on the foundations of instrumental forays, this pair of improvisations capture organic call-and-response.
Morphogenesis sounds like another high point in the leader’s ongoing journey to create his own language.
Morphogenesis: Inside Game; Pull Counter; Roll Under And Angles; NOH; Morphing; Shoulder Roll; SPAN; Dancing And Jabbing; Horda. (60:35)
Personnel: Steve Coleman, alto saxophone; Maria Grand, tenor saxophone; Rane Moore, clarinet; Jonathan Finlayson, trumpet; Kristin Lee, violin; Jen Shyu, vocals; Matt Mitchell, piano; Greg Chudzik, bass; Neeraj Mehta, percussion (3, 4, 6, 7, 9).