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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Steve Coleman
Steve Coleman in Paris, July 2004
Steve Coleman in Paris, July 2004
Background information
Birth nameSteven Douglas Coleman
Born (1956-09-20) September 20, 1956 (age 64)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
GenresJazz, avant-garde, M-Base
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, bandleader
LabelsJMT, Pangaea, Novus, BMG, Label Bleu, Pi
Associated actsFive Elements, M-Base Collective, Strata Institute

Steve Coleman (born September 20, 1956) is an American saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. In 2014, he was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Early life

Steve Coleman grew up in South Side, Chicago. He started playing alto saxophone at the age of 14. Coleman attended Illinois Wesleyan University for two years, followed by a transfer to Roosevelt University (Chicago Musical College).

Coleman moved to New York in 1978 and would work big bands such as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Slide Hampton's big band, Sam Rivers' Studio Rivbea Orchestra, and briefly in Cecil Taylor's big band.[1] Shortly thereafter, Coleman began working as a sideman with David Murray, Doug Hammond, Dave Holland, Mike Brecker and Abbey Lincoln. For the first four years in New York Coleman spent a good deal of time playing in the streets and in tiny clubs with a band that he put together with trumpeter Graham Haynes, the group that would evolve into the ensemble Steve Coleman and Five Elements that would serve as the main ensemble for Coleman's activities. In this group, he developed his concept of improvisation within nested looping structures. Coleman collaborated with other young African-American musicians such as Cassandra Wilson and Greg Osby, and they founded the so-called M-Base movement.


Coleman regards the music tradition he is coming from as African Diasporan culture with essential African retentions, especially a certain kind of sensibility. He searched for these roots and their connections of contemporary African-American music. For that purpose, he travelled to Ghana at the end of 1993 and came in contact with (among others) the Dagomba (Dagbon) people whose traditional drum music uses very complex polyrhythm and a drum language that allows sophisticated speaking through music (described and recorded by John Miller Chernoff[2]). Thus, Coleman was animated to think about the role of music and the transmission of information in non-western cultures. He wanted to collaborate with musicians who were involved in 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 Santería (Cuba and Puerto Rico), Vodou (Haiti) and Candomblé (Bahia, Brazil). In Cuba, Coleman found the group Afrocuba de Matanzas who specialized in preserving various styles of rumba as well as all in Cuba persisting African traditions which are mixed together under the general title of Santería (Abakua, Arara, Congo, Yoruba). In 1996 Coleman along with a group of 10 musicians as well as dancers and the group Afrocuba de Matanzas worked together for 12 days, performed at the Havana Jazz Festival, and recorded the album The Sign and the Seal. In 1997 Coleman 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. He also led his group Five Elements to the south of India in 1998 to participate in a cultural exchange with different musicians in the carnatic music tradition.

In September 2014, Coleman was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for "refreshing traditional templates to create distinctive and innovative work in ... jazz."[3][4]


As leader

Steve Coleman and Five Elements, except otherwise noted

  • Steve Coleman Group: Motherland Pulse (JMT, 1985)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: On the Edge of Tomorrow (JMT, 1986)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: World Expansion (JMT, 1987)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Sine Die (Pangaea, 1987)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Rhythm People (Novus, 1990)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Black Science (Novus, 1991)
  • Steve Coleman: Rhythm in Mind (Novus, 1991)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Drop Kick (Novus, 1992)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: The Tao of Mad Phat (Novus, 1993)
  • Steve Coleman and Metrics: A Tale of 3 Cities (The EP) (Novus/BMG, 1994)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Def Trance Beat (Novus/BMG, 1994)
  • Steve Coleman and the Mystic Rhythm Society: Myths, Modes and Means Novus/BMG, 1995)
  • Steve Coleman and Metrics: The Way of the Cipher (Novus/BMG, 1995)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Curves of Life (Novus/BMG, 1995)
  • Steve Coleman and the Mystic Rhythm Society with AfroCuba de Mantanzas: The Sign and the Seal (BMG, 1996)
  • Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance: Genesis (BMG, 1997)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: The Opening of the Way (BMG, 1997)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: The Sonic Language of Myth (BMG, 1998)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: The Ascension to Light (BMG France, 2001)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Resistance Is Futile (Label Bleu, 2001)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Alternate Dimension Series I (Free download, 2002)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: On the Rising of the 64 Paths (Label Bleu, 2002)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Lucidarium (Label Bleu, 2003)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Weaving Symbolics (Label Bleu, 2006)
  • Steve Coleman: Invisible Paths: First Scattering (Tzadik, 2007)
  • Steve Coleman: Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi, 2010)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: The Mancy of Sound (Pi, 2011)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Functional Arrhythmias (Pi, 2013)
  • Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance: Synovial Joints (Pi, 2015)
  • Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse: Morphogenesis (Pi, 2017)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Live at the Village Vanguard Vol. 1 (The Embedded Sets) (Pi, 2018)


As sideman

With Sam Rivers

  • Colours (Black Saint, 1982)
  • Rivbea All-Star Orchestra: Inspiration (BMG France, 1999) Mixed and produced by Coleman
  • Rivbea All-Star Orchestra: Culmination (BMG France, 1999) Mixed and produced by Coleman

With Doug Hammond

  • Perspicuity (L+R, 1991, rec. 1981/82)
  • Spaces (Idibib, 1982; Rebel-X, 1991)

With Franco Ambrosetti

With Abbey Lincoln

  • Talking to the Sun (Enja, 1984)
  • Who Used to Dance (Gitanes/Verve, 1997)

With Dave Holland

With Chico Freeman

With Billy Hart

With the Errol Parker Tentet

  • Live at the Wollman Auditorium (Sahara, 1985)

With David Murray

  • David Murray Big Band Live at "Sweet Basil" Vol. 1 (Black Saint, 1985)
  • David Murray Big Band Live at "Sweet Basil" Vol. 2 (Black Saint, 1986)

With Cassandra Wilson

With Geri Allen

With Michele Rosewoman

  • Quintessence (Enja, 1987)

With Robin Eubanks

'With Stanley Cowell

With Lonnie Plaxico

  • Plaxico (Muse, 1990)
  • West Side Stories (Plaxmusic, 2006) Coleman and Cassandra Wilson as guest on one track

With Cindy Blackman

With The Roots

With Ravi Coltrane

With Anthony Tidd’s Quite Sane

  • Child of Troubled Times (CoolHunter Music, 2002)


The DVD Elements of One by Eve-Marie Breglia shows Steve Coleman and his band from 1996 to 2003 encountering Von Freeman, Afro-Cuban musicians in Cuba, West-African and Afro-Cuban musicians in Senegal, rappers in the United States, Indian musicians in India, ancient Egyptian philosophy in Egypt, and a computer-music research center in Paris.


  1. ^ Steve Coleman in: Fred Jung, My Conversation with Steve Coleman, July, 1999,
  2. ^ John Miller Chernoff, African Rhythm and African Sensibility: Aesthetics and Social Action in African Musical Idioms, 1981; CD: Master Drummers of Dagbon
  3. ^ 21 Extraordinarily Creative People Who Inspire Us All: Meet the 2014 MacArthur Fellows,
  4. ^ "Steve Coleman - MacArthur Foundation". Retrieved 2020-04-22.
This page was last edited on 19 November 2020, at 15:59
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