Isaiah Collier (Solo) and I AM
Brooklyn, NY 11238
Multi-instrumentalist, writer, educator, arranger, and composer Isaiah Collier makes his Blank Forms debut with a solo performance followed by a set from I AM, his duo with percussionist Michael Shekwoaga Ode. Collier describes jazz as a “message of the ancestors,” and his own inspired tenor and soprano saxophone playing, both as a bandleader and a sideman, unites the spiritual and free jazz tributaries of Great Black Music into a single flowing stream of consciousness.
Raised by a family of musicians on Chicago’s south side, Collier picked up the saxophone at age eleven and went on to attend both the Jazz Institute of Chicago and the Chicago High School for the Arts. As an improviser, he evokes the sound of Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders, his idiosyncratic overblowing forebears. In parallel, Collier has pursued the compositional and collective impulses of his hometown’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, many members of which—Ernest Dawkins and Ari Brown among them—were instrumental in his musical development. Following an AACM tradition (he is now a member) Collier leads workshops and jazz masterclasses in public schools and juvenile detention centers, addressing the many intersections of Black music and struggles for freedom.
With his group the Chosen Few, featuring Ode on drums, Jeremiah Hunt on upright bass, and Mike King on piano, Collier has released three records: Return of the Black Emperor (2018), The Unapologetic Negro (2019), and Cosmic Transitions (2021), a critically-lauded ode to the spiritual jazz of John Coltrane inspired by lessons learned while Mercury, in retrograde, appeared to move backwards through the sky. Collier and Ode’s new duo effort as Beyond, I AM (2022), combines transcendent vocalizations with chiming percussion before moving into a thunderstorm of drums and gongs met by manic woodwinds laden with pedal effects, a technique relatively new to Collier’s practice.
In recent years, Collier, honoring the AACM’s founding impetus to “uphold the tradition of cultured musicians handed down from the past,” has played in first-generation AACM member and Ethnic Heritage Ensemble founder Khalil El’Zabar’s quartet; debuted new work with a twelve-piece ensemble at the MCA Chicago; and performed on Angel Bat Dawid’s celebrated album The Oracle (2019).
Percussionist Michael Shekwoaga Ode was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Durham, North Carolina. He attended Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, where he studied under Billy Hart. He has played with Van Morrisson, Joey DeFrancesco, Isaiah Collier, Theo Croker, and numerous other accomplished musicians.
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