Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Steve Coleman and Five Elements

  • Sine Die [Pangaea, 1988] B
  • Rhythm People (The Resurrection of Creative Black Civilization) [Novus, 1990] A-
  • Curves of Life [RCA Victor, 1995] Neither

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Sine Die [Pangaea, 1988]
Between their groove-busting tempo shifts and putative profundities, Coleman's two earlier records were enough to make you wonder whether smart fusion was any better than the dumb kind. This is definitely an improvement--at its best, it combines the modern tonalities of schooled bebop with the snap and kick of professional funk. Not the bump and thump, though. And while Cassandra Wilson sings more and intones less, she still has to deal with Coleman's lyrics. Which must be why Sting likes the guy. B

Rhythm People (The Resurrection of Creative Black Civilization) [Novus, 1990]
Jazz specialists are claiming the just-released Black Science as the one they always had in them, but from my specialty (whatever that might be), this 1990 item has the right stuff: almost true fusion, yet I diddybop around to its secondhand funk. Helps that they trade off like the Lakers on a fast break. Helps that Coleman plays his alto off. And it really helps that Cassandra Wilson, called in for two horrendous lyrics on the new one, is held down to a scat. A-

Curves of Life [RCA Victor, 1995] Neither