Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few

One of the most engrossing soul-jazz listens of the year crops up out of Chicago’s Division 81 Records. Along with The Chosen Few, Isaiah Collier has crafted a soaring album that delves deep into the ecstasy that permeated works by Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane. It’s tumultuous and temperamental, infused with a boundless energy that bubbles out of the players with unrestrained joy. The album kicks off strong, making its case early with “Love” which features Dee Alexander (The AACM Great Black Music Ensemble) on vocals. Slaloming between gospel and jazz, the song rides the wave of rhythm, building to an exultant finish that explores its subject with an exuberance and bliss. The album follows with similar divinations of love, light, and beauty, including a glowing piece that features Ari Brown adding his sax to Collier’s and Isaiah taking the lead on vocals for “Perspective (Peace and Love),” a song that shimmers like light off of water.

The album culminates in two monumental tracks — the three part suite “Duality Suite (I. +, II. -, III. Divine Masculine, IV. Divine Feminine)” and “The Almighty” which features The Celestials. The suite is the true centerpiece of the album, a 23+ minute piece that winds through the band’s influences and impulses, a perfect encapsulation of the joy and jubilance of the album. The suite makes excellent use of Julian Davis Reid’s piano as a foil to Collier’s searing sax lines. The final track matches the suite’s energy, though, also filling a full side of the LP adding a large scale ensemble dubbed The Celestials, which swells the studio with strings, a full horn and wind ensemble alongside a rhythm trio. Collier has never been one to shy away from ambitious works, but The Almighty finds him at his best, brimming with love and sending it out in waves to the listener.

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