- Brand: I AM
- Product Code: IAM-beyond
Regular Edition in Double Black Vinyl
Tenor saxophone and drums duos were a thing at least as early as the 1950s, but John Coltrane and Elvin Jones elevated the format a decade later. Among their most exalted forays was the 27:04 title track of Coltrane's One Down, One Up: Live At The Half Note (Impulse, 2005), recorded in 1965. In case you missed the news, that album was given an audio upgrade in early 2022 on the Swiss-based ezz-thetics label's remastered Song Of Praise: Live New York 1965: Revisited. Prominent present day inheritors of Coltrane and Jones' mantle include London's Binker and Moses, the semi-free partnership of tenor saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd, who kicked off their run of five albums (so far) with Dem Ones (Gearbox) in 2015. Another highly recommended European duo is that of saxophonist Christopher Kunz and drummer Florian Fischer, who debuted with Die Unwucht (ezz-thetics) in 2020. Now comes Chicago's I Am, who are saxophonist Isaiah Collier and drummer Michael Shekwoaga Ode. Collier also plays soprano, as do all the aforementioned saxophonists, but like them, the tenor is his main horn. Beyond, which was partly inspired by a solo exchange between Collier and Ode during the fifth movement of Collier's outstanding Cosmic Transitions (Division 81, 2021), was recorded live in the studio one night in June 2021. That album's title, fittingly in retrospect, was a reference to Coltrane's Transitions (Impulse, 1970); fittingly because the Transitions sessions included the tenor/drums duet "Vigil," which appeared on Coltrane's 1966 Impulse album Kulu Se Mama. Like Binker & Moses, I Am is best described as a semi-free group, and also like Binker & Moses the duo varies the intensity level from track to track, and reaches extremities of sonic passion mostly through the use of "conventional" technique; Collier and Golding both employ vocalization but avoid the altissimo register. Also like the Londoners, I Am has a penchant for florid track titles, although going by press statements from Collier and Ode, and the use of percussionist and "sound healer" Jimmy Chan on the album's shamanistic opener, "Invocation," the Chicagoans' overall trajectory is closer to the explicit spirituality of Coltrane (and Jones) than that of the sci-fi-ish Golding and Boyd. But wherever it is coming from, Beyond is the real deal.