Isaiah Collier: Parallel Universe review – an inspired homage to the giants of jazz and soul

(Night Dreamer)
Recorded in single-take live performances, the Chicago multi-instrumentalist deftly throws funk, gospel, soul and his own fine voice into the mix

Isaiah Collier is keen on “the ancestors”. Opening this, his fourth album, the young Chicagoan pays fulsome vocal tribute to bygone jazz giants and soul stars, while his previous record, 2021’s Cosmic Transitions, was a handsome homage to John Coltrane’s masterpiece A Love Supreme. It consolidated Collier’s reputation as a shamanic saxophone prodigy (he’s also an adept multi-instrumentalist with a fine voice), and showed that his admiration for the spiritual jazz of Coltrane, Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders is about inspiration rather than imitation.

Parallel Universe is a different creature, the latest direct-to-disc recording from the Night Dreamer label, meaning it’s a live-in-studio performance without overdubs. Musically, it’s more diverse, folding funk and gospel flavours into a mix animated by vocal parts (from Jimetta Rose and Collier), and catchy riffs as much as knockdown sax, though there is ample post-bop wailing, especially on the title cut. The 13 minutes of Village Song return to the ancestral wellspring, moving from Yoruba chants to a sprightly melody led by Collier’s flute, while The Lean and Open the Door draw on 70s soul flavours with Rhodes piano and wah-wah guitar. Peace, love and liberty are much evoked, but in a dynamic way.

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