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JAZZ REVIEW | Isaiah Collier & the Chosen Few "The Almighty" by Jeff Cebulski

The Almighty

Isaiah Collier & the Chosen Few

Division 81 Records 2024

By Jeff Cebulski | ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2


The path that Chicago saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Isaiah Collier has taken is so clearly marked by its approximation to the spiritual jazz of John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Pharaoh Sanders, et al. that it’s impossible to review his music without referencing the tradition or assessing how it fits.


In Collier’s case, there’s enough distinction between his and the founders’ identity to certify that The Chosen Few has already arrived as an extender of a beloved jazz motif and should be welcomed into it in the same way the late Wallace Roney was accepted as an extension of Miles Davis.


That said, the ensemble’s new album The Almighty builds mightily upon previous releases and attaches itself to a wall-of-sound dynamic typified by Coltrane's latter stages, yet certifies the kind of growth that anticipates a distinctive future.


The key to the power of the album—outside the themes—is the bond between Collier and his drummer Michael Shekwoaga. Those who relished the recording of Coltrane and Elvin Jones on One Down, One Up: Live at the Blue Note will be excited by what they hear on the “Plus” section of the curiously titled “Duality Suite.” No shade is intended for bassist Jeremiah Hunt and pianist Julian Davis Reid, who prove their worth throughout.


Among the distinctions of Collier and his friends is a decidedly Christian bent to the lyrics sung by Chicago’s Dee Alexander and Collier himself; the Coltranes were expressing a more universal idea. However, Collier doesn’t marginalize his audience by way of evangelism; this is a personal expression of holy desire and recognition of the Divine. On the opener “LOVE”, when Alexander sings “Lord help me with sharing my heart/with my brothers and my sisters/we all belong to this earth/so Lord, help us share some more love”, humility reigns over proclamation, making The Almighty more of a worship suite (ala A Love Supreme) than a creedal screed. The Eastern-tinged rhythm will be familiar to followers of the Coltrane tradition, with Reid dutifully driving the music with Tyner-ish two-handed chords, Hunt’s sturdy bass and Shekwoaga’s pounding away. Collier is quite able to sustain his solos with enough dissonance to signify a manifest pleading.


“Compassion” builds quietly until Reid breaks the near silence with a neo-gospel, almost honky tonk sanctified entrance that sets up Collier’s echo heavy, Sanders-influenced expression supplanted by guest Ari Brown’s lower keyed, extended accompaniment. (Collier’s choice to include such beloved Chicago jazz greats enhances the ‘church’ flavor of the album.) 


“Perspective (Peace and Love)” is a relatively sedate mantra enhanced by Shekwoaga’s flowing percussion while the harmonic and rhythmic repetition of the chorus carries the proceedings—clearly worship music that grooves so well one isn’t bored while dancing. Collier’s sax celebration is frosting on a holy cake.


In the closest thing to Supreme, the intensity ramps up considerably at the beginning of “Duality Suite (I. Plus, II. Minus, III. Divine Maculine, IV. Divine Feminine).” “Plus” sounds rooted in “Resolution”; “Minus” in “Psalm.”


The title cut that ends the album is a nearly 20-minute composition that incorporates The Celestials, an 11-piece ensemble, in a display that gathers the intensity and spirit of the preceding entries, a sumptuous, expansive example of dramatic production.


No matter how derivative his music seems to be, Isaiah Collier’s The Almighty heralds a clearly talented community demonstrating unified growth and a staunch, against-the-grain take on a revered jazz tradition.


Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few, The Almighty. Division 81 Records, 2024.


Isaiah Collier, saxophone and voice

Julian Davis Reid, piano

Jeremiah Hunt, bass

Michael Shekwoaga, drums

Dee Alexander, voice

Ari Brown, tenor saxophone


The Celestials:

Zara Zaharieva, violin

Edith Yokey, violin

Michelle Manson, viola

Fred Jackson, alto saxophone

Corey Wilkes, trumpet

Ryan Nyther, trumpet

Matthew Davis, trombone

Mayshell Morris, flute

Justin Dillard, piano

Micah Collier, bass

Vincent Davis, drums

About Jeff Cebulski

Jeff Cebulski, who lives in Chicago, is a retired English educator (both secondary and collegiate) and longtime jazz aficionado. His career in jazz includes radio programs at two stations in southeast Wisconsin, an online show on Kennesaw State’s (GA) Owl Radio from 2007 until 2015, and review/feature writing for Chicago Jazz Magazine since 2016, including his column "Jazz With Mr. C". He has interviewed many jazz artists, including Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, John Beasley, and Chris Brubeck, as well as several Chicago-based players. Jeff is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association. Contact Jeff at


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