Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance, Synovial Joints (PI Recordings)
Steve Coleman’s edgy alto saxophone and flute playing, iconoclastic composition methods and founding of the 1970s and ‘80s M-Base movement led the inattentive to classify him with free-jazz adventurers. In fact, he was and is dedicated to precision and control in applying his theories. At the heart of the CD is a four-movement suite as intricate as its inspiration—the interaction of the system of bones and sinews that makes possible the human body’s movements. That may sound academic, but the parts played by reed, brass, stringed and percussion instruments combine in music that has depth, thematic cohesiveness and, often, warmth and humor. Coleman’s alto sax, Jonathan Finlayson’s trumpet and David Bryant’s piano generate many of the improvisational sparks. The 21 instrumentalists perform Coleman’s demanding arrangements with élan. Among the album’s six additional pieces, the Latinate “Harmattan” is a tour de force of contrapuntal writing and playing.