Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Steve Coleman

Further Notes:

Subjects for Further Research [1990s]: In his pop-friendly Afrocentric brass, the M-Base altoist is like a younger version of tenor man David Murray, except that Murray is all of one year his senior--and also a great player where Coleman is a very good one, so common a breed in jazz these days that only specialists bother telling them apart. But with his multitude of bands--Five Elements, Metrics, Mystic Rhythm Society, Council of Balance--Coleman works up more convincing funk and Afropercussive grooves than anyone else working this turf (Greg Osby, to be specific), as in 1990's Rhythm People (The Resurrection of Creative Black Civilization). Predictably, the jazz loyalists "bored" by his propulsion prefer Black Science, Cassandra Wilson lyrics and all. In 1995, Coleman released four live albums simultaneously and knocked me for a loop--there were pleasures aplenty there, but I never sorted them out. I've also enjoyed 1996's Afro-Cuban The Sign and the Seal, 1998's big-band Genesis, and 1999's syncretic The Sonic Language of Myth. But as a nonspecialist I'll make my fine distinctions elsewhere.