Walker Art Center

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“With strains of Parker and Coltrane, Bartók, and the musics of the Middle East and China … [Natal Eclipse’s performance] was something beautiful, indeed essential.” —The Nation

Minneapolis, April 5, 2017—Composer, bandleader, saxophonist Steve Coleman, hailed as “one of the most rigorously conceptual thinkers in improvised music” (New York Times), heads a new hybrid chamber-jazz ensemble that explores the very foundations of group improvisation and spontaneous composition. Coleman’s eight-member all-star ensemble includes Matt Mitchell (piano), Greg Chudzik (bass), Roman Filiu (tenor saxophone), Rane Moore (clarinet), Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Kristin Lee (violin), and Jen Shyu (voice). Expect an uncompromising evening of borderless styles, supreme musical fluidity, and post-bop revolution on Friday, May 12, 8pm in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater.

Growing up surrounded by dance music – funk, rock, soul and blues - in Chicago’s south side gave Coleman a taste for rhythm he never lost. He learned violin in school, but abandoned it for the alto saxophone at the age of 15, playing in James Brown cover bands. At Illinois Wesleyan University he was the only black person in the music department, quite a shock for someone who says he ‘did not know any white people until he was 17 or something’. Told to improvise in his jazz band, he checked out his record collection to find that his father - a ‘Bird’ fanatic - had slipped in a Charlie Parker album. He learned the solos, just as he had Maceo Parker’s. Returning to Chicago he hooked up with Von Freeman, the legendary tenor player and pedagogue, learning the rudiments of bebop on the bandstand. He moved to New York in 1978 to join the Mel Lewis - Thad Jones Big Band, later playing in the Cecil Taylor Orchestra and Sam Rivers’ Winds of Manhattan group. Active and articulate, Coleman and kindred spirits - including singer Cassandra Wilson - formed M-Base, a self-help organization for black musicians, seeking to integrate all forms of black music into a new ecumenical style. M-Base refreshingly by-passed the John Coltrane / Michael Brecker style of the Berklee College of Music mainstream for a quirky, electric jazz/funk with a dash of Thelonious Monk and harmolodics too.

Coleman has been hailed as the successor to Charlie Parker and attacked as a self-hyped mediocrity. Critics have favored his work with Dave Holland’s group, playing relatively straight ahead bop, but Coleman claims to play the same style in his group Five Elements. He recorded prolifically during the 90s and 00s with his various ensembles, which include Renegade Way (with Greg Osby, Joe Lovano, Craig Handy, Kenny Davis, and Yoron Israel), the Mystic Rhythm Society, the Metrics, and the big band Council of Balance, and became involved in musical exchanges with musicians from Cuba and Africa.


Tickets to Steve Coleman’s Natal Eclipse are $32 ($25.60 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.

Drinks at the Lounge
The Walker Lounge (in the former Gather by D’Amico space) is the place to be before and after the performance. Grab a cocktail before the show, or stay afterward for a drink and conversations.

Free Gallery Admission
Extend your art experience—come back with your ticket within seven days of a performance, and get in free to the Walker galleries.


Support for Steve Coleman’s Natal Eclipse provided by Producers’ Council members Mike and Elizabeth Sweeney.

The Walker Art Center’s performing arts programs are made possible by generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through the Doris Duke Performing Arts Fund, the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Producers’ Council Performing Arts programs and commissions at the Walker are generously supported by members of the Producers’ Council: Nor Hall and Roger Hale; King’s Fountain/Barbara Watson Pillsbury and Henry Pillsbury; Emily Maltz; Dr. William W. and Nadine M. McGuire; Leni and David Moore, Jr./The David and Leni Moore Family Foundation; Mike and Elizabeth Sweeney; and Frances and Frank Wilkinson.

Steve Coleman Photo: Tracy Collins