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As the leader of M-Base, a movement of young jazz players in New York City, Steve Coleman has framed all of his releases, since his first in 1985, in intriguing, if spaced-out, concepts. But he never quite painted in all the details.

While “young lions” such as Wynton Marsalis worked inside the jazz tradition (and inside the industry), M-Base pushed boundaries. Its adherents steeped themselves in jazz history to uncover not a structured set of jazz formulas, but the potential of free improvisation and all types of musical expression. Their experimental enthusiasm, however, didn’t develop into a successful working style, and many well-known graduates of the movement (Cassandra Wilson, Geri Allen, Jason Moran, Greg Osby) significantly revamped their styles after they struck out on their own. M-Base, or “macro-basic array of structured extemporizations,” it seemed, was destined to become a noble failure of great ideas that worked on paper but not on the ear.

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