**** Steve Coleman and Five Elements, "The Tao of Mad Phat/Fringe Zones," Novus/RCA. Chalk it up to new drummer Oliver Gene Lake Jr., or the informal ambience of the live-with-studio-audience format, but this album is a quantum leap for saxophonist/composer Coleman. The density of his previous Five Elements albums required several listens to connect with the rhythmically based improvisation but the light, limber physicality of the funk here creates immediate contact. Coleman literally teaches Lake the groove to "Laid Back Schematics" on the spot and the cohesive ensemble interaction and variety of moods evoked by the music makes "Tao of Mad Phat" the best introduction yet to Coleman's concept.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent).

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