Alto saxist, composer and educator Steve Coleman made his residential return to the Blue Whale for a fortnight of evening music with his Five Elements band. His long term teammates of Jonathan Finlayson/tp, Anthony Tidd/b and Sean Rickman/dr may not make up a quintet as they have in the past, but their cohesiveness was in impressive display during the 70 minute set that featured almost telepathic communication between the leader and band.
Coleman opened the evening up with a solo aria on “Ascending Numeration” while Finlayson gently floated into the theme. With Tidd’s thick pulse and Rickman/s cadencing drums the horns popped and staccato’d their creative solos and themes to a rapid fire race to the finish line.
For the next 45+ minutes, Coleman lead the band through an intuitive medley of his tunes including “Change the Guard,” “Figit Time” and “Black Ghengis” with the horns weaving in and out of the rapid-fire themes like RS7 Audis in a roundabout. Coleman mixed melancholia and thoughtful reflection while Finlayson’s sweet tone was fragile yet clear as Waterford Crystal while Tidd’s bass line throbbed to keep the jabbing and punching all together. Rickman’s ride cymbal created a rivulet of rhythm during and assertive interlude, as Coleman bore down on the white knuckler middle section, just before slowing things down int a slow plodding yet funky pace that almost went klezmatic during the climax. A mini stampede had the horns throwing flames in unison but Tidd’s thick pulse veered the traffic like a New York street cop to prevent any traffic accidents.
The song and first set closed in a post bop photo finish as the music, while sometimes extending like a Valeo stretch band, never snapped out of control and always kept focus. If Coleman is able to teach these concepts to the schools that he visits during the day, he’s setting the next generation right.
Coleman and the Elements continues their residency until Dec. 15. Peter Erskine’s Dr. Um comes 12/16-17