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Although they came out with a CD in 1993 under the title of "M-Base Collective," this particular "band" was always a loose grouping of like-minded musicians intent in finding a new way to improvise. M-Base (which stands for Macro-Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations) utilizes funky (but surprisingly unpredictable) rhythms, unusual interval jumps in the solos, and a non-melodic approach. M-Base originated out of a musicians referral service that served as a job bank for jazz players. The original players of the style were altoists Steve Coleman and Greg Osby, trumpeter Graham Haynes, guitarist David Gilmore, electric bassist Kevin Bruce Harris, drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith, and singer Cassandra Wilson among others; later practitioners included tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas, bassist Lonnie Plaxico, pianists James Weidman and Andy Milne, and electric bassist Reggie Washington. The musicians often used each other on club dates and recording sessions, and in particular, the groups of Coleman (the Five Elements) and Osby helped spread the principles of M-Base. In time, the players split apart with Wilson finding fame, drummer Smith playing a wide variety of music, and Osby often appearing as a sideman. However, in the improvising of Coleman, Osby, and Thomas, the unusual M-Base style (which in some ways is an extension of the music of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time) lives on. ~ Scott Yanow


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