Saturday, February 14, 2015

Kofi Natambu On SOS: Poems 1961-2013 by Amiri Baraka, Grove Press, 2015

A Critical  Review of a "Review": 
The White Supremacist Incompetence of New York Times "literary critic" Dwight Garner vs. the literary and cultural WORK and achievements of Amiri Baraka from 1961-2013
by Kofi Natambu
The Panopticon Review

DWIGHT GARNER
(b. 1965)
NEW YORK TIMES LITERARY CRITIC 

“We know that the war against intelligence is always waged in the name of common sense.”
― Roland Barthes, Mythologies

As U.S. History—social, cultural, economic, and political—notoriously and repeatedly reveals to us, the sustained relentless brutality and perversely willful ignorance and self serving arrogance of White Supremacy (forever masked in this country by the always handy and rhetorically vague euphemism called “racism") is simultaneously conscious, subconscious, and unconscious behavior no matter who is engaging in it. Moreover, in the living ideological and empirical context of a society and culture eyebrow deep in the vast and thoroughly rancid ocean of lies, distortions, aporias, evasions and denials intrinsic to the white supremacist intellectual mindset (and practice), the knee-jerk default position that one takes is nearly always one of an insistently dismissive and rank condescension toward the black subject/object/target of one’s middlebrow contempt and patronizing indifference. Thus instead of an intelligently considered and even minimally rational and focused critical analysis of the actual range and scope of the black object’s actual work and contributions we inevitably  are subjected instead to an outrageously myopic reductionism and lazy simpleminded a priori rejection of the work in favor of a smugly self satisfied and mindless incompetence buttressed by an utterly defensive witlessness masquerading as “insight.” The result is the idiotic pseudo psychoanalytic bile and corny extraliterary judgment and moral posturing that Mr. Garner has conjured here instead of a mature, even minimally competent critical review of the actual “gift and achievements” of Amiri Baraka’s WORK over a half century. For example as Garner conveniently refuses to even acknowledge, let alone responsibly engage, regardless of what anyone thinks otherwise nearly every major writer or artist in history worth even a modicum of our attention and regard is necessarily and by definition a raft of internal and external contradictions and unresolved tensions that one may like or dislike, understand or are clueless about, identify with or disdain. But what pray tell does any of that have to do with the actual “gift and achievements” of their work? Far more relevant here is what does any of that has to do with a genuine critical assessment and engagement of this work? T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound (just to name two of the endless number of famously white “mainstream" canonical examples one could cite) were both notoriously racist, sexist, and fascist minded snobs steeped in religious bigotry and secular hatreds whose highly contentious relationship to a wide array of people and cultures deeply rankles, upsets, offends, and horrifies many to this day (and largely for very good and substantive reasons) but in the FINAL ANALYSIS what does that have to do with determining whether or not Pound and Eliot were great poets and critics whose actual “gifts and achievements” were still extremely important and of immense artistic and intellectual value creatively to the theory and practice of poetry and literary expression whether one “liked” or “identified” with them or not.

In the case of Amiri Baraka my point is that even if Garner foolishly but honestly thought Baraka’s work overall was somehow unworthy of his or our collective attention he would still have to make the intellectual and analytical EFFORT at minimum to seriously and critically investigate and thus intelligently ascertain exactly what he thought Baraka’s work did and didn’t do in his literary career in order to share his opinions and ideas about the relative value (or lack thereof) of Baraka’s work for his criticism to have any kind of useful validity. But Garner does not come anywhere close to that basic level or standard of competency as a literary critic or even disinterested academic observer of Baraka’s fifty year oeurve. The reasons Garner utterly fails to do that is because he’s such a willfully smug, arrogant, condescending, and absurdly patronizing literary policeman who simply pretends he always already “knows” who and what Baraka is and isn’t as a writer and cultural force that he clearly thought/felt it was beneath his station or position (status?) to do what is REQUIRED of him toas a critic. In its place we get instead some silly infantile bullshit about Baraka’s “personality" (or what is absurdly construed by Garner to be Baraka’s personal psychology). Talk about rhetorical dishwater. It sounds to me like Garner has been drinking it! By dismissively reducing Baraka’s poetry to being “full of tantrums and sophistries” and Baraka himself to a mere “malcontent” who wore his “id on his sleeve” and was “ tightly wound” and who “wanted to slice up "the white man" (could Garner possibly mean himself?) like a spiral ham” what we decidedly don’t get is a real literary critic capable of explicating and expressing ideas and opinions worth reading and (gasp!) actually thinking seriously about one way or the other. Instead we get the pompous adolescent blurtings of a junior/bush league pop psychologist. Anything else that Baraka has to offer as a major poet and intellectual Garner assures us without a hint of evidentiary information or analysis is nothing but “many, many deficiencies of coherence” that Garner couldn’t or didn’t want to grasp because it’s relatively unimportant or meaningless to him. Further as Baraka embraced a series of differing ideological positions we are told by Garner the presumptuous self proclaimed sage that Baraka's “political voice ran over his poetic one” (a falsely dichotomous theoretical split of political ideology and poetics if there ever was one) and that  process in turn introduced some truly bad and contemptible things to emerge in his poetry. What an insufferable intellectual fraud! As Roland Barthes pointed out so eloquently in his early literary and critical theory opus Mythologies (1956) Garner is the very embodiment of that creepy species of narcissistic sophistry known as “blind and dumb criticism.” By way of a concluding sortie on this rampant tendency by far too many white American “critics” like Mr. Garner to blithely and unjustly condescend to, marginalize, and patronize various literary personas and “public personalities" rather than genuinely analyze and critique their actual literary production and output --and especially as it is pervasively and rather routinely applied to black writers in the United State--Barthes strikingly prescient views are still quite germane:

"Why do critics thus periodically proclaim their helplessness or their lack of understanding? It is certainly not out of modesty: no one is more at ease than one critic confessing that he understands nothing about existentialism; no one more ironic and therefore more self-assured than another admitting shamefacedly that he does not have the luck to have been initiated into the philosophy of the Extraordinary; and no one more soldier-like than a third pleading for poetic ineffability. All this means in fact that one believes oneself to have such sureness of intelligence that acknowledging an inability to understand calls in question the clarity of the author and not that of one's own mind. One mimics silliness in order to make the public protest in one's favour, and thus carry it along advantageously from complicity in helplessness to complicity in intelligence. It is an operation well known to salons like Madame Verdurin's: 'I whose profession it is to be intelligent, understand nothing about it; now you wouldn't understand anything about it either; therefore, it can only be that you are as intelligent as I am…"

"...In fact, any reservation about culture means a terrorist position. To be a critic by profession and to proclaim that one understands nothing about existentialism or Marxism (for as it happens, it is these two philosophies particularly that one confesses to be unable to understand) is to elevate one’s blindness or dumbness to a universal rule of perception, and to reject from the world Marxism and existentialism: 'I don’t understand, therefore you are idiots.’ But if one fears or despises so much the philosophical foundations of a book, and if one demands so insistently the right to understand nothing about them and to say nothing on the subject, why become a critic? To understand, to enlighten, that is your profession, isn’t it? You can of course judge philosophy according to common sense; the trouble is that while 'common sense' and ‘feeling' understand nothing about philosophy, philosophy, on the other hand, understands them perfectly. You don't explain philosophers,but they explain you. You don't want to understand the play by Lefebvre the Marxist, but you can be sure that Lefebvre the Marxist understands your incomprehension perfectly well, and above all (for I believe you to be more wily than lacking in culture) the delightfully 'harmless' confession you make of it.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/books/s-o-s-poems-1961-2013-works-by-amiri-baraka.html?ref=topics&_r=0


Books

Poetic Voice Wrapped Tight in Its Shifting Politics

S O S: Poems 1961-2013
By Amiri Baraka
531 pages. Grove Press. February, 2015. $30.


JANUARY 27, 2015
Books of The Times
By DWIGHT GARNER
New York Times
 
There are two ways to rank writers, the poet John Berryman said, “in terms of gift and in terms of achievement.”

Amiri Baraka (1934-2014) had a bold gift. His best poems are cynical, impolite, acid in their wit’s rain. He tapped easily into the suspicion and resentment that linger below the promise of American life. He was the keeper of a certain vinegary portion of the African-American imagination. He declared, over and over, that he would not be fooled again.

You can open to nearly anywhere in the first third of “S O S: Poems 1961-2013,” a career-spanning new collection of his work, and find fresh evidence of his capacities. In a poem called “Three Modes of History and Culture,” from 1969, a kind of updated Muddy Waters blues, he caught the faces of those in “trains/leaning north, catching hellfire in windows, passing through/the first ignoble cities of missouri, to illinois, and the panting/Chicago.”

What’s best about Baraka’s verse is that this historical sensibility and sense of historical dread bump elbows with anarchic comedy. “I have slept with almost every mediocre colored woman/on 23rd St,” he declares in a poem from “Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note” (1961), his first collection of verse. In another poem from that collection, he asks:

What can I say?
It is better to have loved and lost
Than to put linoleum in your living room?

You were never sure what Baraka was going to say next, and for a writer, that’s not an insignificant gift to possess.

Baraka’s achievements, “S O S” makes plain, were only rarely equal to his talents. He went from beatnik to black nationalist to Marxist, and his political voice slowly ran over his poetic one, his dogma over his karma, to reverse the joke. Misogyny and anti-Semitism began to filter into his work.

In The Village Voice in 1980, he published an essay called “Confessions of a Former Anti-Semite.” But a poem titled “Somebody Blew Up America,” written shortly after Sept. 11, contains these lines:

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed

Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers

To stay home that day

Why did Sharon stay away?


The funny thing about “Somebody Blew Up America” is that much of the rest of it is terrifically clarifying in its anger. It’s a vernacular poem, meant for the ear perhaps more than the eye, and it asks the oldest and juiciest questions about inequality:

Who own them buildings

Who got the money

Who think you funny

Who locked you up

Who own the papers

Who owned the slave ship

Who run the army

Who the fake president

Who the ruler

Who the banker

Who? Who? Who?

 
Now there’s a pop quiz for every sentient soul. Here is your blue book. You have 15 seconds.

“S O S” is the best overall selection we have thus far of Baraka’s work, but he is served poorly by it. The introduction by Paul Vangelisti, the volume’s editor, is an anthology of unforced errors.

Mr. Vangelisti neglects to provide the most basic details of Baraka’s life, so these poems are shorn of context. He also writes academic jargon of the sort Baraka despised, referring to one poem as “driven by the nuances of shifting, heterogeneous cadences, often spoken, often collaged, and always relentlessly material and public.”

This is the kind of rhetorical dishwater that can just as easily apply to a Meghan Trainor song or a Fox News segment.

Mr. Vangelisti provides only the vaguest sense of how the poems in this volume were selected and misses a crucial opportunity to set the entirety of Baraka’s oeuvre in necessary context. What were the criteria? What exactly was left out? We do learn that “S O S” comprises the contents of two earlier selections of Baraka’s work, selections the poet oversaw.

You would not know from this introduction, for example, that one of the poems Baraka left out included this line: “I got the extermination blues, jewboy.” The poems in the last section of “S O S” were selected by Mr. Vangelisti after the poet’s death.

Baraka knew he was wound tight. “I am a mean hungry sorehead,” he writes. “Do I have the capacity for grace??” He long had the sense he’d been “undesirably discharged/From America.” His internal struggles — he wore his id on his sleeve — are rarely less than interesting. “I wanted to know myself,” he writes, “and found this was a lifetime’s work.”

The pleasures in “S O S” tend to be mean or pointed, and funny and very real. He asks in one short poem,

If Elvis Presley/is

King

Who is James Brown,

God?

Another reads in its entirety,

How amazed the crazed

negro looked informed

that Animal Rights had

a bigger budget

than the N.A.A.C.P.!

He had little time for organized religion. A poem from 1972 begins,

We’ll worship Jesus

When jesus do

Somethin

When jesus blow up

the white house

or blast Nixon down

when jesus turn out congress

or bust general motors to

yard bird motors.

 
Baraka’s poems are filled with tantrums and sophistries, stances and dances. There are many, many deficiencies of coherence. Some make only the dead, clicking sound cars make in the frost. But others plant a hatchet in your skull that you won’t be able to pull out for weeks. Especially the ones in which he seems to want to slice up the white man like a spiral ham.

Baraka, who can almost be viewed as an intense and wary reverse image of Whitman, was a malcontent who contained multitudes. “Get your pitch forks ready,” he writes in a late poem collected here. “Strike Hard and True. You get them or they get you.”

S O S
Poems 1961-2013
By Amiri Baraka
531 pages. Grove Press. $30.


Dwight Garner (critic)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
Born January 8, 1965 (age 50)
Fairmont, West Virginia, United States
Occupation Writer, journalist
Genre Criticism, nonfiction

Dwight Garner (born 1965) is an American journalist, now a literary critic for The New York Times. Prior to that he was senior editor at the New York Times Book Review, where he worked from 1999 to 2009. He was also the founding books editor of Salon.com,[1] where he worked from 1995 to 1998.

His essays and journalism have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Harper's Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement, the Oxford American, Slate, the Village Voice, the Boston Phoenix, The Nation,[1] and elsewhere. He has served on the board of the National Book Critic's Circle. In a January 2011 column for Slate, the journalist Timothy Noah called Garner a "highly gifted critic" who had reinvigorated the New York Times's literary coverage, and likened him to Anatole Broyard and John Leonard.[2]

He is the author of Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements, and he is at work on a biography of James Agee.

Dwight Garner was born in West Virginia[3] and graduated from Middlebury College.[4] He lives in Frenchtown, New Jersey. He is married to the cookbook writer Cree LeFavour.[5]


http://heatstrings.blogspot.com/2015/02/save-our-stanzas-selecting-amiri-baraka.html

Saturday, February 07, 2015
Save Our Stanzas - Selecting Amiri Baraka
by Aldon Lynn Nielsen
Heartstrings

AMIRI BARAKA
(1934-2014)

For many years I have complained loudly and often about the lack of a readily available major gathering of Amiri Baraka's poetry. It would be  hard to think of another late career poet of his importance who was not the subject of a Collected as well as a Selected. (The Complete generally awaits the poet's demise -- but even then . . .. Recollect that one of Frank O'Hara's friends asked, following the publication of both the Collected and Poems Retrieved, whether a Complete was even a possible thing. Looking at the masses of Baraka's work, I have often wondered the same thing.)

Long out of print, the Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, published in 1979, was advertised as "containing those poems which the author most wants to preserve," and that has long been the most substantial collection of Baraka's verse we had - 339 pages running from Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note through to Poetry for the Advanced. (This was the only volume in which many of us could find that second collection from Baraka's Marxist epoch.) There was no editor named in the book, so one assumes the selections are indeed Baraka's own.

A quarter century on, Marsilio published Transbluesency: Selected Poems 1961-1995, edited by Paul Vangelisti in consultation with the poet. I loved the cover of that book the minute I saw it, and began reading with the highest hopes, but I was already concerned just picking up the volume. The 1979 Selected ran to 339 pages; the 1995 Transbluesency, taking in decades more work to choose from, was 271 pages long.

Shortly after the publication, a retrospective symposium on Baraka's life and work was held at the Schomburg Library. One of the standout events of that weekend was a reading Baraka gave during which, at the suggestion of Kalamu ya Salaam, Baraka read poems from the entire breadth of his career, something I had never seen him do before and that I never again witnessed. Picking up Transbluesency, Baraka paused over the first poem on the first page and remarked, "there's a mistake here." That was just the beginning of it -- Transbluesency was badly marred by obvious typos and substantive errors. Any selection, like any anthology, is open to criticism for what has been omitted (or what perhaps should have been). I remember Kalamu asking Baraka why the book didn't include such powerful works as "I Investigate the Sun." But selection criteria aside, those of us who hope to teach from such books also hope to have reliable editions. Since 1995, Transbluesency has been the only easily acquired and adopted collection of Baraka's work spanning his writing life, and so I have often begun classes by issuing a corrections kit to my students so that we can all be on the same page with some assurance we are on a page Baraka wrote. Learning that the new SOS: Poems 1961-2013 was also being edited by Vangelisti, and that it was to be an expansion of Transbluesency, I harbored a wish that those many errors would be corrected.

And some of them have been -- That first poem, "Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note" has been corrected, but the fifth section of "Hymn for Lannie Poo" still contains lines that read "The preacher's / conning eyes / filed when he saw /the way I walked to- / wards him;" lines that don't really make much sense. "Conning eyes filed"? Readers of earlier editions know the word was supposed to be "fired." A pretty bad typo in "Wise I" has been corrected, but the opening page of "In the Tradition" retains a significant error. The current edition has the lines "the White Shadow / gives advice on how to hold our homes / together, tambien tu, Chicago Hermano" -- I imagine any number of readers have been wondering who this Chicago hermano is and why Baraka is addressing him in Spanish. Those of us who first heard the poem on the stunning LP New Music - New Poetry, accompanied by Fred Hopkins, Steve McCall and David Murray, know that the line goes "tu tambien, Chicano hermano." Chicano/Chicago -- not really a typo, and a world of difference.

Again, any of us might well have made a different selection. Why no "Why Is We Americans"? Why no "Something in the Way of Things," no "I Liked Us Better"? Was the decision to repeat exactly the selections from Transbluesency Baraka's choice? For the foreseeable future, we will have to live and work with these decisions. A proposed Collected was put on hold by Baraka's agents in favor of letting SOS have the field to itself for a time.

But it's not just copy editing that is a problem. The editor's introduction adds some new counterfactuals to those already circulating. Baraka's parents did not capitalize the "R" when they named him Everett Leroy Jones. It is simply not true that following 1973 Baraka "would only be published by smaller or alternative presses." That 1979 Selected (still a book to get on the used book market if you can't get all the original volumes)? That was published by Morrow, and it includes the Marxist period books Hard Facts and Poetry for the Advanced, the very sorts of work Vangelisti argues rendered Baraka unpublishable by the larger, commercial houses. Baraka often observed that it had been easier to get published with "hate whitey" than with "hate capitalism," and that is true enough. But that's a far cry from the claim advanced in the introduction to the new book. Morrow also published Baraka's Selected Plays and Prose and Daggers and Javelins, a major collection of essays from the Marxist period. It was also Morrow who published the first substantial collection of Baraka's later plays, The Motion of History. None of this is to take anything away from the story of Baraka's difficulties in the publishing world (part of why we haven't seen another major collection of the poems in all these years from a larger press), and we all owe a tremendous debt to Third World Press and the many small literary presses who continued to make Baraka's works available. Still, it's better to get the motion of history right when writing history, when you're editing the only large collection of Baraka's poetry that we're going to have for the foreseeable future.

There are questionable interpretations as well. Can we really make the case that Baraka's "lyrical realism" "sounds in counterpoint to his Beat contemporaries, steeped as they were in the egocentric idealism of nineteenth-century Anglo-American literature"? Take another look at Baraka's brilliant introduction to The Moderns and let his comments on the relationship of his contemporaries among the Beats to, say, Melville and Twain, sink in and then think carefully about this argument. And is it really defensible to claim that Baraka's writing is "both American (i.e., African American, of the 'New World') and firmly outside Anglo-American culture"?

On the other hand, Vangelisti is on much firmer ground with his observation that "up through the last poems, there remained above all a critical, often restless lyricism . . . " I think one of the greatest services this new volume will perform is forcing, or at least encouraging, a much more nuanced understanding of Baraka's later writings. The anthologies have tended to repeat the same few poems, and many readers, aided and abetted by America's publishing world, simply have no clue what Baraka's late poems are like. The image of a screaming, hate-filled nationalist was simply replaced in the national media imaginary by the image of a screaming, hate-filled communist (see the press controversy surrounding "Somebody Blew Up America" for a sense of what I'm getting at) and all too many critics and general readers alike simply didn't bother reading any poetry Baraka wrote over the past four decades. Those who did lay hands on copies of Funk Lore or Wise or any of the many chapbooks over the years knew that Baraka continued to write poetry easily the equal of anything done in his youth. How hard could it have been for anyone to know that? Still, it could have been a whole lot easier if he'd had the kind of book publication an Adrienne Rich or a Kevin Young or a Mark Strand seemed to find without quite so much trouble.

The final section of the new SOS, titled "Fashion This," is selected from work published after 1996 and is in itself cause for celebration, a truly important event in American poetry. Many familiar elements are in place. Where the young LeRoi Jones recollected the Green Lantern, the old Baraka at several points remembers the little devil cartoon character created by Gerald 2X in the pages of Muhammad Speaks. (Has anybody ever gathered those cartoons in one place?) The lyric reflections on Monk and Trane continued to Baraka's dying day. The scathing satire continued unabated. The wild experimentation with language went on (see "John Island Whisper"). The collection provides a new context for reading poems we've nearly talked to death in the past. Reread "Somebody Blew Up America?" next to Baraka's earlier poem written after the bombing in Oklahoma City.

There are few places in the work as deeply moving and lyrically intense as the poems for and about Amina Baraka, the former Sylvia Robinson. "What beauty is not anomalous / And strange"

If we ever do get a Collected Baraka (and let's hope it's also a corrected Baraka) I suspect it will need to be in two very large volumes, rather  like the two volumes of the Creeley Collected we now have. There are at least 236 pages of uncollected poems just from the beginning of Baraka's publishing to 1966. Add to that all the uncollected poems since 1966 and whatever of the unpublished poetry can be coralled and you'd probably have another entire book at least as long as SOS. We need these books, but for now this is what we have. To the good, there is plenty here for us to reread and think over for a good long while.

The saddest lines in the entire 528 pages of SOS come in a late poem reflecting on late Auden: "What poetry does / is leave you when you stop needing it!" Poetry never left Amiri Baraka, and we will never stop needing his.


Tender Arrivals
by Amiri Baraka

 
Where ever something breathes
Heart beating the rise and fall
Of mountains, the waves upon the sky
Of seas, the terror is our ignorance, that’s
Why it is named after our home, earth
Where art is locked between
Gone and Destination
The destiny of some other where and feeling

The ape knew this, when his old lady pulled him up
Off the ground. Was he grateful, ask him he’s still sitting up there
Watching the sky’s adventures, leaving two holes for his own. Oh sing
Gigantic burp past the insects, swifter than the ugly Stanleys on the ground
Catching monkey meat for Hyenagators, absolute boss of what does not
Arrive in time to say anything. We hear that eating, that doo dooing, that
Burping, we had a nigro mayor used to burp like poison zapalote
Waddled into the cave of his lust. We got a Spring Jasper now, if
you don’t like that

woid, what about courtesan, dreamed out his own replacement sprawled
Across the velvet cash register of belching and farting, his knick names when they
let him be played with. Some call him Puck, was love, we thought, now a rubber
Flat blackie banged across the ice, to get past our Goli, the Africannibus of memory.
Here. We have so many wedged between death and passivity. Like eyes that collide
With reality and cannot see anything but the inner abstraction of flatus, a
biography, a car, a walk to the guillotine, James the First, Giuliani the Second
When he tries to go national, senators will stab him, Ides of March or Not. Maybe
Both will die, James 1 and Caesar 2, as they did in the past, where we can read about
The justness of their assassinations

As we swig a little brew and laugh at the perseverance
Of disease at higher and higher levels of its elimination.
We could see anything we wanted to. Be anything we knew how to be. Build
anything we needed. Arrive anywhere we should have to go. But time is as stubborn
as space, and they compose us with definition, time place and 
condition.
The howlees the yowlees the yankees the super left streamlined post racial ideational
chauvinists creeep at the mouth of the venal cava. They are protesting 
fire and
Looking askance at the giblets we have learned to eat. “It’s nobody’s heart,” they
say, and we agree. It’s the rest of some thing’s insides. Along with the flowers, the
grass, the tubers, the river, pieces of the sky, earth, our seasoning, baked
throughout. What do you call that the anarchist of comfort asks,
Food, we say, making it up as we chew. Yesterday we explained language.

 
“Tender Arrivals” printed in S O S: POEMS 1961–2013 © 2014 by The Estate of Amiri Baraka; collection edited by Paul Vangelisti; used with the permission of the publisher, Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc.

Source: Poetry (February 2015).           

Friday, February 13, 2015

Steve Coleman (b. September 20, 1956): Outstanding and innovative saxophonist, composer, arranger, music theorist, teacher, and ensemble leader-- February 7-February 13, 2015 issue of SOUND PROJECTIONS: Volume 1, Number 2

http://soundprojections.blogspot.com/

All,

I hope you enjoyed the second week issue from February 7-February 13, 2015 of Volume 1, Number 2 of SOUND PROJECTIONS, the online quarterly music magazine which featured the brilliant, innovative, pioneering, and legendary pianist, composer, arranger, songwriter, teacher, and ensemble leader MARY LOU WILLIAMS (1910-1981). The third week issue of this volume of the quarterly begins TOMORROW on Saturday, February 14, 2015 @10AM PST which is @1PM EST

The featured artist for this upcoming week (February 14-February 20, 2015) is the outstanding and innovative saxophonist, composer, arranger,  music theorist, teacher, and ensemble leader STEVE COLEMAN (b. September 20, 1956) . So please enjoy this week’s featured musical artist in SOUND PROJECTIONS, the online quarterly music magazine and please pass the word to your friends, colleagues, comrades, and associates that the magazine is now up and running at the following site. Please click on the link below:

http://soundprojections.blogspot.com/

Thanks.  For further important details please read below…
Kofi

Sound Projections

 
A sonic exploration and tonal analysis of contemporary creative music in a myriad of improvisational/composed settings, textures, and expressions.


Welcome to Sound Projections


I'm your host Kofi Natambu. This online magazine features the very best in contemporary creative music in this creative timezone NOW (the one we're living in) as well as that of the historical past. The purpose is to openly explore, examine, investigate, reflect on, studiously critique, and take opulent pleasure in the sonic and aural dimensions of human experience known and identified to us as MUSIC. I'm also interested in critically examining the wide range of ideas and opinions that govern our commodified notions of the production, consumption, marketing, and commercial exchange of organized sound(s) which largely define and thereby (over)determine our present relationships to music in the general political economy and culture.

Thus this magazine will strive to critically question and go beyond the conventional imposed notions and categories of what constitutes the generic and stylistic definitions of 'Jazz', 'classical music', 'Blues', 'Rhythm and Blues', 'Rock 'n Roll', 'Pop', 'Funk', 'Hip Hop' etc. in order to search for what individual artists and ensembles do creatively to challenge and transform our ingrained ideas and attitudes of what music is and could be.

So please join me in this ongoing visceral, investigative, and cerebral quest to explore, enjoy, and pay homage to the endlessly creative and uniquely magisterial dimensions of MUSIC in all of its guises and expressive identities.


Saturday, February 14, 2015


Steve Coleman: Outstanding and innovative saxophonist, composer, arranger, music theorist, teacher, and ensemble leader









SOUND PROJECTIONS 

AN ONLINE QUARTERLY MUSIC MAGAZINE

EDITOR:  KOFI NATAMBU

WINTER,  2015

VOLUME ONE                                     NUMBER TWO


 


THELONIOUS MONK



Featuring the Musics and Aesthetic Visions of:



ESPERANZA SPALDING
January 31-February 6

MARY LOU WILLIAMS
February 7-13

STEVE COLEMAN
February 14-20

JAMES BROWN
February 21-27

CURTIS MAYFIELD
February 28-March 6

ARETHA FRANKLIN
March 7-14

GEORGE CLINTON
March 14-20

JAMES CARTER
March 21-27

TERENCE BLANCHARD
March 28-April 3

BILLIE HOLIDAY


April 4-10


[In glorious tribute and gratitude to this great legendary artist we celebrate her centennial year]
 
VIJAY IYER
April 11-17

CHARLES  MINGUS
April 18-24

http://www.macfound.org/fellows/911/

September 17, 2014

MACARTHUR FELLOWS / MEET THE CLASS OF 2014

Steve Coleman
Jazz Composer and Saxophonist
Founder
M-Base Concepts, Inc.
Allentown, PA
Age: 57


http://www.macfound.org/fellows
 
Steve Coleman is an alto saxophonist and composer whose technical virtuosity and engagement with musical traditions and styles from around the world are expanding the expressive and formal possibilities of spontaneous composition.

Whether performing solo or with his regular ensemble, Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Coleman delivers signature performances of notated works and brings a masterful facility to intricate and complex improvised pieces. His original compositions weave disciplined rhythmic structures, refined tonal progressions, and overlapping and mixed meters into soulful and fluid interpretations. In his improvisational performances, Coleman energizes and updates iconic musical idioms in the creative traditions of luminaries like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker by infusing them with melodic, rhythmic, and structural components inspired by music of the larger African Diaspora, as well as from the continents of Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas (in particular, West Africa, Cuba, Brazil, Europe, India, and Indonesia). His work also draws heavily on inspiration from nature, metaphysics, and science, integrating, for example, patterns derived from the cycles and relationships of the planets in our solar system or, as on Functional Arrhythmias (2013), the pulsating patterns of the human heart.
Coleman’s commitment to mentorship and community has also distinguished his career. M-Base (Macro-Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations), a cooperative that Coleman co-founded in the mid-1980s and that is still vital today as the non-profit organization M-Base Concepts, Inc., provides a supportive environment for musical experimentation and original performance, and his workshops, seminars, online instruction, and interdisciplinary collaborations encourage younger musicians both here and abroad to push the boundaries of their craft. Influential well beyond the scope of saxophone performance and composition, Coleman is redefining the vocabulary and vernaculars of contemporary music.

Steve Coleman attended Illinois Wesleyan University (1974–1976) and Roosevelt University (1976–1977). In addition to giving workshops worldwide, he has been an artist in residence at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (2009–2010) and the Thelonious Monk Institute (2008–2009) and a faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley (2000–2002), the Stanford Jazz Workshop (1995–1996), and the Banff School of Fine Arts (1985–1991). His extensive catalog of recordings includes Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (2010), Invisible Paths: First Scatterings (2007), and Resistance Is Futile (2002), among many others.

"'Genius Grant' Saxman Steve Coleman Redefining Jazz" thumbnail

"'Genius Grant' Saxman Steve Coleman Redefining Jazz"

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"Popcast: Parsing Steve Coleman’s Genius"

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"Steve Coleman Named as 2014 MacArthur Fellow"

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- See more at: http://www.macfound.org/fellows/911/#sthash.bnXctPup.dpuf
Steve Coleman is an alto saxophonist and composer whose technical virtuosity and engagement with musical traditions and styles from around the world are expanding the expressive and formal possibilities of spontaneous composition.
Whether performing solo or with his regular ensemble, Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Coleman delivers signature performances of notated works and brings a masterful facility to intricate and complex improvised pieces. His original compositions weave disciplined rhythmic structures, refined tonal progressions, and overlapping and mixed meters into soulful and fluid interpretations. In his improvisational performances, Coleman energizes and updates iconic musical idioms in the creative traditions of luminaries like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker by infusing them with melodic, rhythmic, and structural components inspired by music of the larger African Diaspora, as well as from the continents of Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas (in particular, West Africa, Cuba, Brazil, Europe, India, and Indonesia). His work also draws heavily on inspiration from nature, metaphysics, and science, integrating, for example, patterns derived from the cycles and relationships of the planets in our solar system or, as on Functional Arrhythmias (2013), the pulsating patterns of the human heart.
Coleman’s commitment to mentorship and community has also distinguished his career. M-Base (Macro-Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations), a cooperative that Coleman co-founded in the mid-1980s and that is still vital today as the non-profit organization M-Base Concepts, Inc., provides a supportive environment for musical experimentation and original performance, and his workshops, seminars, online instruction, and interdisciplinary collaborations encourage younger musicians both here and abroad to push the boundaries of their craft. Influential well beyond the scope of saxophone performance and composition, Coleman is redefining the vocabulary and vernaculars of contemporary music.
Steve Coleman attended Illinois Wesleyan University (1974–1976) and Roosevelt University (1976–1977. In addition to giving workshops worldwide, he has been an artist in residence at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (2009–2010) and the Thelonious Monk Institute (2008–2009) and a faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley (2000–2002), the Stanford Jazz Workshop (1995–1996), and the Banff School of Fine Arts (1985–1991). His extensive catalog of recordings includes Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (2010), Invisible Paths: First Scatterings (2007), and Resistance Is Futile (2002), among many others.
- See more at: http://www.macfound.org/fellows/911/#sthash.bnXctPup.dpuf

Steve Coleman

Jazz Composer and Saxophonist

Founder
M-Base Concepts, Inc.
Allentown, PA
Age: 57

Published September 17, 2014
Steve Coleman is an alto saxophonist and composer whose technical virtuosity and engagement with musical traditions and styles from around the world are expanding the expressive and formal possibilities of spontaneous composition.
Whether performing solo or with his regular ensemble, Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Coleman delivers signature performances of notated works and brings a masterful facility to intricate and complex improvised pieces. His original compositions weave disciplined rhythmic structures, refined tonal progressions, and overlapping and mixed meters into soulful and fluid interpretations. In his improvisational performances, Coleman energizes and updates iconic musical idioms in the creative traditions of luminaries like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker by infusing them with melodic, rhythmic, and structural components inspired by music of the larger African Diaspora, as well as from the continents of Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas (in particular, West Africa, Cuba, Brazil, Europe, India, and Indonesia). His work also draws heavily on inspiration from nature, metaphysics, and science, integrating, for example, patterns derived from the cycles and relationships of the planets in our solar system or, as on Functional Arrhythmias (2013), the pulsating patterns of the human heart.
Coleman’s commitment to mentorship and community has also distinguished his career. M-Base (Macro-Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations), a cooperative that Coleman co-founded in the mid-1980s and that is still vital today as the non-profit organization M-Base Concepts, Inc., provides a supportive environment for musical experimentation and original performance, and his workshops, seminars, online instruction, and interdisciplinary collaborations encourage younger musicians both here and abroad to push the boundaries of their craft. Influential well beyond the scope of saxophone performance and composition, Coleman is redefining the vocabulary and vernaculars of contemporary music.
Steve Coleman attended Illinois Wesleyan University (1974–1976) and Roosevelt University (1976–1977. In addition to giving workshops worldwide, he has been an artist in residence at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (2009–2010) and the Thelonious Monk Institute (2008–2009) and a faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley (2000–2002), the Stanford Jazz Workshop (1995–1996), and the Banff School of Fine Arts (1985–1991). His extensive catalog of recordings includes Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (2010), Invisible Paths: First Scatterings (2007), and Resistance Is Futile (2002), among many others.
- See more at: http://www.macfound.org/fellows/911/#sthash.bnXctPup.dpuf
Steve Coleman is an alto saxophonist and composer whose technical virtuosity and engagement with musical traditions and styles from around the world are expanding the expressive and formal possibilities of spontaneous composition.
Whether performing solo or with his regular ensemble, Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Coleman delivers signature performances of notated works and brings a masterful facility to intricate and complex improvised pieces. His original compositions weave disciplined rhythmic structures, refined tonal progressions, and overlapping and mixed meters into soulful and fluid interpretations. In his improvisational performances, Coleman energizes and updates iconic musical idioms in the creative traditions of luminaries like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker by infusing them with melodic, rhythmic, and structural components inspired by music of the larger African Diaspora, as well as from the continents of Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas (in particular, West Africa, Cuba, Brazil, Europe, India, and Indonesia). His work also draws heavily on inspiration from nature, metaphysics, and science, integrating, for example, patterns derived from the cycles and relationships of the planets in our solar system or, as on Functional Arrhythmias (2013), the pulsating patterns of the human heart.
Coleman’s commitment to mentorship and community has also distinguished his career. M-Base (Macro-Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations), a cooperative that Coleman co-founded in the mid-1980s and that is still vital today as the non-profit organization M-Base Concepts, Inc., provides a supportive environment for musical experimentation and original performance, and his workshops, seminars, online instruction, and interdisciplinary collaborations encourage younger musicians both here and abroad to push the boundaries of their craft. Influential well beyond the scope of saxophone performance and composition, Coleman is redefining the vocabulary and vernaculars of contemporary music.
Steve Coleman attended Illinois Wesleyan University (1974–1976) and Roosevelt University (1976–1977. In addition to giving workshops worldwide, he has been an artist in residence at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (2009–2010) and the Thelonious Monk Institute (2008–2009) and a faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley (2000–2002), the Stanford Jazz Workshop (1995–1996), and the Banff School of Fine Arts (1985–1991). His extensive catalog of recordings includes Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (2010), Invisible Paths: First Scatterings (2007), and Resistance Is Futile (2002), among many others.

Photos

High-resolution photos for download. Photos are owned by the MacArthur Foundation and licensed under a Creative Commons license: CC-BY. Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Right-click on a link below to save the file to your computer.
- See more at: http://www.macfound.org/fellows/911/#sthash.bnXctPup.dpuf

Popcast: Parsing Steve Coleman’s Genius

By Ben Ratliff
September 26, 2014
New York Times

Steve Coleman, center, performing on Tuesday with Five Elements at the Stone in the East Village. Credit Jacob Blickenstaff for The New York Times


The saxophonist and composer Steve Coleman became a MacArthur Fellow last week — joining the ranks of so-called “genius grant” winners — and is coming to the end of a two-week residency at the Stone in the East Village. Mr. Coleman has become of the most influential improvisers of the last half-century — mostly through decades of functioning as a one-man, nonacademic academy, the teacher of his own system. His sound, or his thought, can be traced through some of the other recent recipients of the award: Miguel Zenón, Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer and Dafnis Prieto, who have all played with him at one time or another.

And his work, live or on record, sounds like what we think of as new in jazz: tight percussive patterns in uneven or overlapping cycles, funk phrasing, cueing systems and so on. But the more you poke at it, the more you find that’s old. It draws ideas not just from Miles Davis of the ’60s and ’70s and Charlie Parker of the ’40s, but from West African rhythmic practices and even heartbeat patterns, the oldest music in the world.

On this week’s Popcast, Nate Chinen and I try to define Mr. Coleman’s great old-school achievement: the way in which he’s created a language that echoes outward through practice rather than through record sales, dominant cultural institutions or academia.

Listen above, download the MP3 or subscribe in iTunes.
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"'Genius Grant' Saxman Steve Coleman Redefining Jazz"

The Philadelphia Inquirer Steve Coleman, 2014 MacArthur Fellow Read More
- See more at: http://www.macfound.org/fellows/911/#sthash.bnXctPup.dpuf
September 20, 2014:

(Which happens to be Steve Coleman's 58th birthday-ed.)

Saxophonist Steve Coleman honored with MacArthur 'genius grant'

Saxophonist Steve Coleman was named a 2014 MacArthur Fellow.
By Chris Barton
September 17, 2014
Los Angeles Times

Influential saxophonist, composer and educator Steve Coleman has been named as one of the 2014 MacArthur Fellows.

In presenting the honor, the MacArthur Foundation praised the 57-year-old Coleman for "infusing iconic spontaneous music idioms with the melodic, rhythmic and structural components of an eclectic range of musical traditions to create a distinctive new sound."

Born in Chicago and counting Sam Rivers, Von Freeman and Sonny Rollins among his early influences, Coleman is also known as the driving force behind M-Base, a loose musical collective that began in the 1980s as well as an evolving school of creative thought. An acronym for Macro-Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations, M-Base emphasizes artistic expression of personal experiences without structural or stylistic limitations, a philosophy that continues to be heard across the spectrum of contemporary jazz.

Among the many artists influenced by Coleman and M-Base include Ambrose Akimusire, Cassandra Wilson, Greg Osby, Dave Holland, Ravi Coltrane, Geri Allen and 2013 MacArthur Fellow Vijay Iyer.

"To me, Steve’s as important as Coltrane,” Iyer told the magazine JazzTimes in 2010. "He deserves to be placed in the pantheon of pioneering artists.”

Throughout his career, Coleman has looked to make connections between ancient cultures and the sound of today, researching harmonic structures and the role of music in transmitting information in Africa and Cuba in his travels. He served as an associate professor of music at UC Berkeley from 2000 to 2002 as well as stints at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the Thelonious Monk Institute and Banff School of Fine Arts.

Coleman continues to explore improvisation through his long-running ensemble Five Elements, a group whose sound reflects a focus on constant movement rather than familiar repeated melodies. Often flirting with a sort of odd-angled funk, Coleman's most recent recordings, including last year's "Functional Arrhythmias," also feature a wealth of rising talent such as Miles Okazaki and Jonathan Finlayson.

Coleman joins five other arts figures in receiving the honor, which is commonly known as a “genius grant” and comes with a prize of $625,000 


 
Thursday, September 25, 2014

STEVE COLEMAN, INNOVATIVE MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, TEACHER AND MUSIC THEORIST IS A 2014 MacARTHUR FELLOWS FOUNDATION GRANT RECEIPIENT

STEVE COLEMAN (b. September 20, 1956)



Steve began playing music just days before his 14th birthday as a freshman at South Shore High School on the south side of Chicago. His first instrument was violin but later that year he switched to the alto saxophone. For three years Steve studied the basics of music and saxophone technique, then he decided that he wanted to learn how to improvise. Looking for the best improvising musicians to listen to is what brought Steve to the music of Charlie Parker, although it helped that his father listened to Parker all the time. After spending two years at Illinois Wesleyan University Steve transferred to Roosevelt University (Chicago Music College) in downtown Chicago in order to concentrate on Chicago’s musical nightlife. Specifically Coleman had been introduced to the improvisations of Chicago premier saxophonists Von Freeman, Bunky Green, Gido Sinclair, Sonny Greer and others and he wanted to hang out and learn from these veterans. By the time he left Chicago in May 1978, he was holding down a decent gig leading a band at the New Apartment Lounge, writing music, playing Parker classics, and getting increasingly dissatisfied with what he felt was a creative dead end in the Chicago scene.

After hearing groups from New York led by masters like Max Roach, Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Sonny Rollins, etc. come through Chicago with bands that featured great players with advanced musical conceptions, Steve knew where he wanted to go next. He felt he needed to be around this kind of atmosphere in order to grow musically.

Hitchhiking to New York and staying at a YMCA in Manhattan for a few months, he scuffled until he picked up a gig with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band, which led to stints with the Sam Rivers Big Band, Cecil Taylor’s Big Band and others. Soon he begun cutting records as a sideman with those leaders as well as pivotal figures like David Murray, Doug Hammond, Dave Holland, Mike Brecker and Abbey Lincoln. However it was really the influence of Von Freeman and Bunky Green in Chicago, Thad Jones, Sam Rivers, Doug Hammond in New York and listening to recordings of past improvising masters and music from West Africa that got Coleman turned around musically. . The most important influences on his music at this time was listening to tenor saxophonist Von Freeman (who primarily influenced Coleman as an improviser), saxophonist Sam Rivers (who influenced Steve compositionally) and drummer/composer Doug Hammond (who was especially important in Steve’s conceptual thinking).
Even playing with these masters only went part of the way toward paying the rent, and so for the next four years Coleman spent a good deal of time playing in New York City’s streets for small amounts of money with a street band that he put together with trumpeter Graham Haynes, the group that would evolve into the ensemble Steve Coleman and Five Elements. It is this group that would serve as the flagship ensemble for most of Steve’s activities.
Within a short time the group began finding a niche in tiny, out-of-the-way clubs in Harlem and Brooklyn where they continued to hone their developing concept of improvisation within nested looping structures. These ideas were based on ideas about how to create music from one’s experiences which became the foundation which Coleman and friends call the M-Base concept. However, unlike what most critics wrote this concept was philosophical, Coleman did not call the music itself M-Base.
After reaching an agreement with the West German JMT label in 1985, Steve and his colleagues got their chance to document their emergent ideas on three early Coleman-led recordings like Motherland Pulse, On The Edge Of Tomorrow, and World Expansion. The late 1980s found Coleman working to codify his early ideas using the group Steve Coleman and Five Elements and working with a collective of musicians called the M-Base Collective. As his ideas grew Steve also learned to incorporate various forms of research to expand his awareness, these techniques included learning to program computers to be used as tools to further develop his conception. He developed computer software modules which he referred to as The Improviser which was able to spontaneously develop improvisations, harmonic structures and drum rhythms using artificial intelligence based on certain musical theories that Steve had developed over the years. It was also during this time that Coleman came into contact with the study of the philosophy of ancient cultures. This began in the late 1970s with his listening to music from West Africa and studying about he African Diaspora, but in the 1980s Steve began to study and read about the ideas behind the music. He began to see that there was a sensibility that connected what he was interested in today with the ancient cultures of the past. All of these ideas are documented on his recordings in the form of a sonic symbolic language.

These emerging concepts were documented on Steve’s subsequent albums Sine Die (the last recording of the 1980s on the Pangaea Label), Rhythm People, Black Science, Drop Kick, The Tao of Mad Phat, and the first album of the entire M-Base Collective called Anatomy of a Groove (all on BMG Records). However, not being satisfied with reading and listening to recordings, Coleman embarked on the first of many research trips, first going to Ghana in December 1993 to January 1994 to study the relationship of language to music. One of the places that he traveled to was a small village called Yendi to check out the Dagbon people who have a tradition of speaking through their music using a drum language that still survives today. Steve had certain ideas about the role of music and the transmission of information in ancient times and he wanted to verify his speculations. This trip had a profound effect on Coleman’s music and philosophy. Upon returning to the United States Steve recorded Def Trance Beat and A Tale of 3 Cities on BMG Records, however the impact of the ideas that he was introduced to in Ghana would not be fully expressed in his work until late in 1994 after meeting the Kemetic (i.e. related to ancient Egypt) philosopher Thomas Goodwin, whose influence on Steve’s work was profound and far reaching.

In June 1994 Steve formed the group Renegade Way which at that time consisted of Steve Coleman and Greg Osby on alto saxophones, Joe Lovano and Craig Handy on tenor saxophones, Kenny Davis on bass and Yoron Isreal on drums. This group also did its first tour of Europe in late august 1995 (with Bunky Green on alto taking Greg’s place and Ralph Peterson on drums instead of Yoron). A later version of this group consisted of Steve Coleman and Greg Osby on alto saxophones, Gary Thomas and Ravi Coltrane on tenor saxophones, Anthony Tidd on Bass and Sean Rickman on drums, however this group has never recorded a commercially released CD.

Representing both a summation of the previous period and the beginning of another phase is the three CD box set entitled Steve Coleman’s Music - Live at the Hot Brass released by BMG France. Each CD in the box set was recorded live in March 1995 in Paris and features one of Coleman’s groups, Curves of Life by Steve Coleman and Five Elements, The Way of the Cipher by Steve Coleman and Metrics and Myths, Modes and Means by Steve Coleman and The Mystic Rhythm Society. This last CD was directly influenced by the trip to Ghana and philosophical studies with Tom Goodwin, it was to point in the direction of Steve’s investigations for the remainder of the 1990s. Together with an experimental ensemble put together called Steve Coleman and The Secret Doctrine, that brought the total number of group projects that Steve was involved in to five.

The year 1995 was an important year for Steve. He began by organizing a trip that would make a profound impact on his music. While pursuing his philosophical studies and learning more about the transmission of these ideas through music, Steve began to plan to investigate an idea that he had been thinking about for at least 7 years. In an effort to follow the development of certain philosophical and spiritual ideas obtained by studying ancient cultures (primarily ancient Egypt) and following up on the 1993-94 research trip to Ghana, Africa, Steve wanted to meet and collaborate in a creative way with musicians who were involved in certain ancient philosophical/musical traditions which come out of West Africa. One of his main interests was the Yoruba tradition (predominantly out of western Nigeria) which is one of the Ancient African Religions underlying Santeria (Cuba and Puerto Rico), Candomble (Bahia, Brazil) and Vodun (Haiti). Steve decided to go to these places and investigate the method by which the ideas of these traditions were transmitted through music. First stop, Cuba!

In Cuba Steve found that the situation was more complex than he had imagined for the people had preserved more than one African culture and these were mixed together under the general title of Santeria. There are the Abakua societies (Ngbe) , the various Arara cults (Dahomey), the Congo traditions such as nganga, mayombe and palo monte as well as the Yoruba traditions. But he did find one group called AfroCuba de Matanzas who specialized in preserving all of the above traditions as well as various styles of Rumba.

It was to the town of Matanzas that Steve headed in January of 1996 in order to study the music and also contact AfroCuba de Matanzas and arrange a meeting with the leader of this group, Francisco Zamora Chirino (otherwise known as Minini). Minini was also excited about the project and so it was arranged that the collaboration would take place in February during the time of the Havana Jazz Festival in order to give the expanded group a chance to perform before the Cuban public.

In February of 1996 Steve rented a large house in Havana and along with a group of 10 musicians and dancers, a three person film crew and the group AfroCuba de Matanzas (who had been bused in from Matanzas) the collaboration was started. For 12 days the two groups hung out together, worked, practiced and conceptualized in order to realize their goal. After their performance at the Havana Jazz Festival the musicians went into a Egrem Studios in Havana and recorded the collaboration. The results of this effort are preserved on a recording made for the BMG France recording company called The Sign and The Seal by Steve Coleman and The Mystic Rhythm Society in collaboration with AfroCuba de Matanzas.

Although this project went well Coleman viewed the results as he did every other project he has been involved in, as a step along a certain path. It did demonstrate another step in the evolution of his music, but it is being on the path that is important to Steve. It also shows that there is a more obvious connection than is generally thought between the creative music of today and the dynamic musical traditions of African peoples living in various parts of the earth. The combined group of Steve Coleman and The Mystic Rhythm Society in collaboration with AfroCuba de Matanzas did a major tour of Europe in June-July of 1997. This year also saw Steve form a large group (big band) called Steve Coleman and The Council of Balance. This group recorded a CD called Genesis which was released as part of the two CD set released by BMG France called Genesis and The Opening of The Way (the second CD in the set featuring Steve Coleman and Five Elements).

1997-1999 saw a continuation of the projects involving cultural exchange with musicians around the world. Partially funded by a grant from Arts International (1997), Steve took a group of musicians from America and Cuba to Senegal to collaborate and participate in musical and cultural exchanges with the musicians of the local Senegalese group Sing Sing Rhythm. Using his own funds he also led his group Five Elements to the south of India in January-February of 1998 to participate in a cultural exchange with different musicians in the Karnatic music tradition. Steve and his group also gave workshops in the Brahavadhi Center headed by the renown musicologist Dr. K. Subramanian. What Steve learned on the trip to India (along with a research trip to Egypt the preceding month) helped to substantiate the knowledge of the ancient systems that Steve had been studying. These trips were helpful in supplying the additional information necessary for Steve to continue his studies which he hopes to express through his own music. Two of Steve’s Five Elements recordings released by BMG France, The Sonic Language of Myth (1999) and The Ascension to Light (2000) are a direct result of these studies.

This work came to the attention of IRCAM (the world renown computer-music research center in Paris France) leading to Coleman receiving a major commission from IRCAM to further develop his ideas, in the form of interactive computer software, at the IRCAM facilities in Paris with the aid of programmers Sukandar Kartadinata, Takahiko Suzuki, Gilbert Nouno and IRCAM technology. A premier concert in June 1999 featuring Steve Coleman and Five Elements interacting with what Steve calls his Rameses 2000 computer software program was the public result of this commission. In 2000-2001 Steve withdrew from performing/recording and began study sabbatical. During this time he traveled extensively to India, Indonesia, Cuba and Brazil and continued much of his research as a music professor at the University of California at Berkeley and at CNMAT (the Center for New Music and Technology). He also overhauled his business organization and signed with another record company from France called Label Bleu. After returning to the world of performing Coleman recorded a live double-CD set called Resistance Is Futile (2001) on Label Bleu records.

Artist’s website:

http://www.m-base.com/

Articles on Steve Coleman
09/17/14

NEWS BY JEFF TAMARKIN
 

Steve Coleman Awarded MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship


THE MUSIC OF STEVE COLEMAN: AN EXTENSIVE VIDEO OVERVIEW, A CROSS SECTION OF RECORDINGS, MUSICAL ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY, PLUS VARIOUS INTERVIEWS WITH MR. COLEMAN:


 Photo of Steve Coleman by Esther Cidoncha via http://ecidonchafotosdejazz.blogspot.com/

To call Steve Coleman “influential” is an understatement. Vijay Iyer, one of the many groundbreaking composer-performers who began their careers apprenticing with Steve, says, “To me, Steve’s as important as Coltrane. He has contributed an equal amount to the history of the music. He deserves to be placed in the pantheon of pioneering artists.”

But the scope of Steve’s influence isn’t limited to his collaborators. He’s been presenting weekly workshops at The Jazz Gallery almost every season since the fall of 2004, where anyone with a thirst for knowledge can go to absorb the infinitude he has to offer.

On March 8th, we’ll be bringing this series uptown in collaboration with our friends at Symphony Space. The Jazz Gallery Uptown: Steve Coleman Presents, A Musical Salon will expose a new neighborhood to Steve’s ideas and approaches. For those of you downtown, we’ll also begin the Spring season of “Steve Coleman Presents” at The Jazz Gallery next Monday.

Never been to one of Steve’s workshops? Michael J. West provides a great account in the 2010 issue of JazzTimes:

The audience at the Jazz Gallery is under Steve Coleman’s spell. The alto saxophonist, casually dressed in jeans and a backwards baseball cap, sits center stage at the scruffy upstairs club in New York’s SoHo district, leading two of his band members—pianist David Virelles and guitarist Miles Okazaki—through alien-sounding renditions of Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are.” The people in the club’s cramped chairs sit in rapt attention, following Coleman’s urgings to clap and sing along with the musicians. Then something unusual happens: Coleman calls one young spectator up to sit with Virelles at the piano, and encourages others to stand onstage behind him and watch.

This is Coleman’s gig, but it isn’t a concert. On a Monday night in March, he’s conducting his weekly master class and workshop, “Steve Coleman Presents,” for musicians of all instruments and skill levels. Coleman has spent the evening discussing negative chords, a system of his own design in which chords are built by stacking notes downward, not upward, from the root. He and his musicians first re-harmonize the changes on “All the Things You Are,” then reconstruct the tune itself using the same concept. “You’re gonna work out the bridge,” he tells the kid he’s brought onto the bandstand, and for the next hour they deconstruct the standard’s B-section note by note, looking to retain the compositional structure but turn it upside down as the remainder of the class—about 20 people, mostly young, some with instruments—looks on.

“What you’re really doing with this is to alter your perspective,” he explains as the kid picks away at the keys. “You’re just looking at the same thing from a different angle, holding up a magnifying glass to see why things work and why they don’t. And you don’t have to stop tonight; you can keep doing it, because it presents situations you’ve never been in before and possibilities you’ve never even thought of.”
We’d like to point out that Steve’s own website is an incredible resource, with several scores and essays – as well as almost two dozen albums – available for free download. The author also recommends this feature in The Wall Street Journal, as well as this extensive 2008 interview via Innerviews.

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February 28th by Rafiq in     Press Previews


http://www.m-base.com/int_vijay.html


INTERVIEWS
An interview conducted by Vijay Iyer


Vijay Iyer: What goals did you have in mind when starting the M-Base Collective and how close have you come to actualizing them?


Steve Coleman: My goal was, and is to express the relationship of mankind, myself in particular to everything else, through music (or some sort of organized sound). Since I do not live in this universe alone I feel that this is best done by more than one person at a time, or groups of people. I've always wanted to be around other creative individuals so that is why I hook up with others. If it is called a collective or not really is not the point for me, it's the work that gets done and trying to stay on this path of creative expression. I feel that being on the path is the important thing and in that sense the goals have been actualized. In other words, to be on the path is in itself success.



VI: How did this collective form? Was M-Base essentially your brainchild, or did others have similar goals? Did you often have to push things along yourself?


SC: Getting together with the other people who have been considered in the past as being a part of the M-Base collective just happened as a result of me expressing myself and others doing the same. I hooked up with each person one by one but I really feel that it was creative energy that initially brought us together. This energy acts to attract other like energy so I really only responded to that.


I did create the name M-Base but the energy was and will always be here, I had nothing to do with that except to allow it to work through me. The name's not important.


It is my nature to push things along (or I should say that's the nature of the energy working through me) so I would have done that collective or no collective. In fact I have done that at times when there were no other people to work with.


VI: Do you feel that M-Base is still a true "collective" today? What problems do you see facing the notion of a music collective today?


SC: I will always be working with people and since I call the frame of mind that I and the people that I work with are generally in "M-Base" (and not the music itself), then maybe you could say that M-Base is a collective. But when I use the term "collective" I'm really not using it in the same sense as I think you are. For me the M-Base collective is the group of people who have contributed to a way of thinking about creating this music. It is not a group of people who make a certain style of music. So for me Muhal Richard Abrams is part of the M-Base collective, even if he would not say so. I don't think that the collectives that most people talk about last very long in this country today because of western mentality and commercial pressures but that does not effect the kind of collective I mentioned above because creative energy always will find a way to manifest itself through individuals and groups of individuals. So the so called 'problems' are really an illusion.


VI: How have the earlier African-American music collectives influenced you? How do you view their importance? You've said before that the collective approach to learning is fundamentally a non-Western concept -- can you elaborate?


SC: Again are we using my definition of a collective? If so the answer is obvious. What we are doing today would not be possible without the work of others who got together and created in the past. So from that standpoint the influence and importance is too great to be measured.


By learning with others you can get instant feedback from other creative minds (each bringing to the table different experiences and insights) DURING the learning process. This enables a kind of collective experience that can be drawn upon when internalizing information the first time. Individual learning does not have this advantage (although it does have its own advantages, but you can always learn on an individual level. You have to reach out and interact with others to learn collectively). I don't believe collective learning is stressed in the west. Performing music in a creative group is collective learning as is playing in a big band of some sort but I'm speaking now of collective learning in the more general and traditional concept of studying and conceptualizing together with others.


VI: With your newer projects like Mystic Rhythm Society, Metrics, and the Secret Doctrine, which bring younger musicians, lyricists, and other non-Western musicians into the fold. Do you hope to enhance and further the collective atmosphere? Do you feel that the musicians are learning from each other?


SC: Of course the musicians are learning from each other. I started these different groups to provide some way to allow me to work with others in a creative environment.


You see when I was working with Cassandra Wilson, Greg Osby, Geri Allen etc.. we made it a point to try and have a group that did not have a musical leader (or a business leader). I was one of the pushier people in the group in terms of trying to advance our musical way of thinking. When the press began to write about us as a group they (the press) decided to make someone in the group the leader. In every interview that I've ever done and when I talked to anyone I made it a point to tell them that I was not the leader of M-Base and that there was no leader. This made no difference to western thinking journalist who insisted that there was a leader, and normally it was written that I started (or was the leader of) M-Base.


This led to problems as others wanted to be looked at by people outside of this process (critics, writers, record company people) as doing more things of a leadership nature, they wanted to be looked at as leaders. Eventually egos came into play and this is one of the reasons why this particular group of people are not really working together that much today. Everybody wanted to be looked at as a leader and as a result all of these people (and some others too) have got their own groups today. The nature of the music industry today is such that individual musicians are immediately looking to form their own groups and get their own recording contracts, even before they get any real experience out in the field. This is due in large part to the commercial pressures of the music industry (and the west in general). Many times musicians deviate from their original purpose of creating music because of commercial pressures.


Combined with the nature of the western educational institutions, which stress pedagogy over creativity ,spirit and culture, this is one of the reasons why so many musicians (who see themselves as playing "jazz" music) do not really have a personal (or individual) sound to their music.


So I decided to just start the groups myself and lead in a more obvious way (business wise and musically) so there would be no argument and therefore no ego battles. I think this works out better in this culture, although I wish it were different because I have to do a lot of things that really have nothing to do with creating music, just to make the music happen at all. Because I've called myself the leader, Five Elements has been around since 1980. It cannot break up unless I break up, unless I end it. And I see no reason to do that. On the other hand if I start The Mystic Rhythm Society (instead of Steve Coleman and The Mystic Rhythm Society) then you have the kind of situation that existed with Weather Report or The Jackson Five, where any aggressive dissenting member of the group can break up the whole thing, because of the way this society is. When this happens then of course the press jumps on it and announces the thing "dead". I have seen many articles that have announced that M-Base is dead but these writers do not understand the nature of what there are talking about. M-Base is only a name, and names do die in a way. But what M-Base represents will never die, it will only be called something else in the future, just like it was called by other names in the past.


Mystic, Metrics, Elements and Secret Doctrine are just groups formed to express various elements or perspectives of this same M-Base conception (or mentality). As an accomplished musician it is easy for you to see the connection between all of these groups. I am only the catalyst and portal through which the energy (that is holding this particular incarnation of creative relationships together) is working. But other individuals respond to these vibrations by opening themselves to these creative energies and this is what makes it a collective on this plane of existence.

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-mancy-of-sound-steve-coleman-pi-recordings-review-by-ian-patterson.php 

Steve Coleman and Five Elements: The Mancy of Sound (2011)


Published: | 5,035 views




Although alto saxophonist Steve Coleman's conceptual approach to composition has grown increasingly adventurous, high-brow or esoteric, depending on your viewpoint—with lunar phases and the Yoruba of West Africa's philosophical system providing inspiration here—The Mancy of Sound merely represents Coleman's relationship to the world, which is the font of most music of worth. Retaining the same musicians from Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi Recordings, 2010), Coleman's Five Elements follow-up shares its broad stylistic features, including non-western rhythms and multiple, interweaving voices, though it differs in the increased rhythmic energy and slightly sweeter aesthetic.

The two-pronged drums of Tyshawn Sorey and Chris Persad Group, The Dautaj, Marcus Gilmore , Coquito, Fri inject tremendous vibrancy, and percussionist Ramon Garcia Perez's animation is equally central in infusing the music with West African spice. All three fairly bristle on "Jan 18," where Coleman, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, trombonist Tim Albright and vocalist Jen Shyu explore adjacent and often interlocking paths. Coleman tears free, coursing over tumbling drums, crashing cymbals, an insistent bass pulse and searing brass riffs, while Shyu's vocal, "nature's call for progression with no fear or aversion, teaching the value of immersion," could serve as the music's creed.

The four-part "Odú Ifá Suite" is the centerpiece of the CD---representing the elements Fire, Earth, Air and Water—and revolves around Shyu's voice. There's an elemental African flavor to the playing, particularly on the up-tempo "Fire-Ogbe," with Shyu's voice floating gaily over brass and reed solos. An intermittent motif serves as a signpost for the musicians, as trombone, trumpet and saxophone all pass the baton. Tight, near-unison riffing or counterpoint lends close support to the soloist. The high energy slowly dissipates, like dying flames. The gently cantering "Earth-Idi" features male African vocals, with trumpet, trombone and saxophone uniting in a delectable descending motif. Again, the energy dissolves, leaving just Shyu's mantra-like vocals, African vocal and percussion. There's a vaguely Duke Ellingtonian spirit about this beautiful composition.

Sweltering brass and reed and lively percussion bring an Afro-Cuban vibe on "Air-Iwori." A ritualistic element colors Shyu's vocal, which seduces over the babble of singing, chanting instrumental voices, rendering palpable the music's deep roots and spiritual vein. "Water-Oyeku" shares the rhythmic pulse of "Earth-Idi," and Shyu and an African male vocal trade back and forth over tightly woven trombone and trumpet. The music swells, enveloping, before gradually receding.

The suite is bookended by the harmonically arresting, percussion-free "Formation 1" and "Formation 2,"— allowing Shyu's captivating voice to emerge more fully. "Noctiluca (Jan 11)" features freer soloing, less buoyed by counterpoint, though when Shyu sings, a carpet of sound lifts her. A two-minute percussive exchange nicely alters the record's overriding aesthetic, before all the voices converge again in a stimulating combination of careful charts and free improvisation. Shyu's interpretation of Patricia Magalhães' poetry, sung in the song's tail, contains the same seeds of mystery as her wordless singing, as calm descends once again.

An important influence on Coleman, alto legend Charlie Parker once told journalist Nat Hentoff, upon listening again to Bartók's Second Piano Concerto, which he had previously dismissed: "I heard things in it I never heard before." Sage advice for anyone who hopes the wonders of The Mancy of Sound will reveal themselves.

Track Listing: Jan 18; Formation 1; Fire-Ogbe [Odú Ifá Suite]; Earth-Idi [Odú Ifá Suite]; Air-Iwori [Odú Ifá Suite]; Water-Oyeku [Odú Ifá Suite]; Formation 2; Noctiluca (Jan 11).

Personnel: Steve Coleman: alto saxophone; Tim Albright: trombone; Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Marcus Gilmore: drums; Thomas Morgan: bass; Ramon Garcia Perez: percussion; Jen Shyu: vocals

Record Label: Pi Recordings Style: Modern Jazz
 



THE MUSIC OF STEVE COLEMAN: AN EXTENSIVE VIDEO OVERVIEW, A CROSS SECTION OF RECORDINGS, MUSICAL ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY, PLUS VARIOUS INTERVIEWS WITH MR. COLEMAN:

Jazz Composer and Saxophonist Steve Coleman, 2014 MacArthur Fellow:

Jazz Composer and Saxophonist Steve Coleman is infusing iconic spontaneous music idioms with the melodic, rhythmic, and structural components of an eclectic range of musical traditions to create a distinctive new sound.
 
The MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000, no-strings-attached grant for individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more. Learn more at www.macfound.org/Fellows.

Steve Coleman & Five Elements - Cully Jazz Festival 2013:


http://www.cullyjazz.ch/

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Steve+C...

 
1. Cardiovascular
2. Cud Ba-rith
3. Respiratoty Flow
4. Cinema Saga
5. 9 to 5
6. Little Girl I'll Miss You
7. Pi
8. Pad Thai
9. Flint
10. Sinews
11. Reflex
12. Fire Revisited


Steve Coleman - Alto saxophone
Jonathan Finlayson - Trumpet
Anthony Tidd - Bass
Sean Rickman - Drums

Recorded at Cully Jazz Festival 12 April 2013