London Jazz Festival: Steve Coleman

Sam Braysher reviews Steve Coleman's Reflex and the Steve Williamson band at Queen Elizabeth Hall, 11 November. Photographer John Watson caught Steve Coleman and Gregory Porter on camera later that evening at the BBC Radio 3 launch broadcast from Ronnie Scott's club

Photography © John Watson/

Steve ColemanThis evening's concert began with a performance by British saxophonist Steve Williamson, a man who came to prominence in the late 1980s but now seems to perform rarely for someone who many consider to be one of the most creative musicians the UK jazz scene has ever produced. His duo set with pianist Pat Thomas was largely free and often challenging but there were some memorable moments and it was interesting to hear a British take on the kind of melodic language popularised by Gary Thomas, Greg Osby and tonight's star attraction, Steve Coleman.

Joined by Marcus Gilmore on drums and Cuban pianist David Virelles, the alto saxophonist played a set that drew on African rhythms, contemporary electronic music and more traditional jazz styles (there was an extended quote of Charlie Parker's Segment at one point) to create a sound that was still unmistakably his own. With Virelles playing a bass synth as well as piano, the trio created a sound that, although derived from densely complex rhythmic materials, was still incredibly groovy, albeit in a quieter, more understated way than some of Coleman's brasher earlier work.

Earlier in the evening Coleman gave a fascinating interview in the QEH foyer, which took in subjects such as a cultural approach to rhythm, his formative musical influences including saxophonist Von Freeman, and the mechanics of his famously mysterious M-Base concept. After this I'm not sure anyone in the room was any clearer on what M-Base actually entails, but what followed was still, I'm sure, one of the most enriching events the London Jazz Festival will see this year.

Gregory Porter, later at the LJF launch party at Ronnie Scott's:

Gregory Porter

post a comment