Def Trance Beat

Def Trance Beat CD Cover

Liner Notes

“Music is for me first and foremost a form of communication. Music can also communicate emotions in a direct and abstract manner. In all of these cases what is understood by anyone experiencing this music depends on that listener’s personal experience. Improvisation in music allows the musician to communicate or express in real time in the same manner as one person talking to another (or to a group of people)”.

This quote from Steve Coleman exemplifies the approach of Steve Coleman and Five Elements. Since 1981 this group has been involved in a personal extension of the musical language of the Afrikan Diaspora. It is their aim to communicate these experiences to today’s listeners.

The group’s current album Def Trance Beat documents the groups latest efforts in this arena. Following upon the success of the Five Elements’ last release The Tao of Mad Phat, Def Trance Beat’s musical form progresses with an intuitive flow while displaying insight into an ancient science, all within definitive creative musical structures. This particular way of expressing music and musical improvisation comes from the combination of individual and collective experiences and the general way the musicians vibrate spiritually in their environment.

The compositions on the album are the result of the “collective meditations” approach that the group has explored on its last two releases. This recording represents the final phase in that cycle. At the time of this recording the concept of the group was already heading in a new direction, that of realizing in musical form, some of the developments of ancient Kam (Egypt). Some of the compositions on Def Trance Beat lead the way in this development (Dogon, Multiplicity Of Approaches, The Khu and The Mantra). The primary focus of the album is what Steve calls “Modalities of Rhythm”, an attempt to rediscover the science of psychic energy and knowledge of the Ancients through specific rhythmic processes. The improvisations are then built through the musician’s understanding of their common experiences, a documentation of the living process organically expressed through music.

Flint is from the movie Our Man Flint and is simply a melody that I liked and rearranged in our own peculiar style. In its own way it provides a bridge for the audience to enter into the more serious music to follow. Verifiable Pedagogy is a combination of drummer Gene Lake’s imagination and saxophone great Charlie Parker’s composition Confirmation, again with the Five Element stylistic stamp of approval! Dogon is named for a Sudanese people (in the Upper Niger region in present-day Mali) called by the name Dogon who possess an extraordinary cosmology. Multiplicity Of Approaches (The Afrikan Way Of knowing) is a composition which through music describes the cyclic approach towards knowledge demonstrated in ancient Africa. The Khu is the Universal Divine Will which in ancient Kamitic traditions initiates the manifestation of all things. Pad Thai is a noodle dish, the shape and quality of the lead melody reminded me of this dish. In Jeannine’s Sizzling a composition called Jeannine (something I’ve heard performed by saxophonist Cannonball Adderly) is merged with a Five Elements’ song called Fire Revisited. Patterns Of Force is a composition by our pianist Andy Milne. The Mantra is an Intonation Of Power drawing on the strength of the combined focus of the musicians. Salt Peanuts again is a Five Elements’ arrangement of a Dizzy Gillespie & Kenny Clarke composition”.


The musicians included in this session are Five Elements members Steve Coleman (alto saxophone), Andy Milne (piano/keyboards), Reggie Washington (bass), and Gene Lake (drums). Special guests for this project are Ravi Coltrane and Craig Handy (tenor saxes), Michael Wimberly, Jalal Sharriff, Kwe Yao Agyapan and Ronnie Roc (percussion) and Matthew Garrison (bass). Joe Marciano (recording and mix engineer). Recorded June 14-17, 1994 in Brooklyn, NY.

Track List

  1. Flint 10:44
  2. Verifiable Pedagogy (From Pedagogy And Confirmation) 03:33
  3. Dogon 08:22
  4. Multiplicity Of Approaches (The Afrikan Way Of Knowing) 06:19
  5. The Khu (Divine Will) 08:18
  6. Pad Thai 05:15
  7. Jeannine’s Sizzling 06:09
  8. Patterns Of Force 12:50
  9. The Mantra (Intonation Of Power) 03:33
  10. Salt Peanuts 03:19


Music available on the download page.