Roscoe Mitchell is the thinking person's Jazz musician. He is unlikely to let his listener just sit back and tap her foot. His music challenges the listener; it draws the listener into the creative process by forcing the listener to make sense of the music, to connect the dots, and to think about what she's hearing.
Of course, it's long been well known to Jazz fans that the best Jazz is a product of hard work and thought about the music. What sets Mitchell, among others, apart is that he often wants to make clear just how much thought is going into his performance at the time of the performance. His music engages the listener both in the head and in the gut.
This album is typical in that way. You cannot listen to it without listening actively. Only two pieces come close to following the old injunction about swinging. Ironically, one of them is the title track, dedicated to longtime Mitchell collaborator, classical vocalist Thomas Buckner. Ironically, because Mitchell's music with Buckner is more like the rest of the album than like the title track. The first part of "The Le Dreher Suite" has a catchy melody which sounds as if it could be part of a performance by Mitchell's band, The Art Ensemble of Chicago. And "Till Autumn" is a short piece which features Jodie Christian's piano, and sounds the most conventional of all the pieces here. Other than that, the dominating mood of the album is one of space and quiet sound. Much of the music feels improvised, although I wouldn't be surprised to find that more is composed than seems to be, so consistent is the feel of the album. The improvisations all feel similar in that they all focus on Mitchell's playing without be dominated by his playing. Everybody contributes both sound and silence, and the contributions enhance the overall feel while drawing attention to Mitchell's solos, and without spotlighting those solos.
This is an album for quiet contemplation, rewarding contemplation.
Track Listing: Off Shore, In Walked Buckner, Squeaky, The Le Dreher Suite, Three Sides of a Story, Till Autumn, Fly Over, Opposite Sides. Total time: 64:49.
Personnel: Roscoe Mitchell (Piccolo Flute, Baroque Flute, Bass Recorder, Clarinet, Soprano Sax, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Small Bells and Whistles), Jodie Christian (Piano and Small Bells), Reggie Workman (Bass, Small Percussion, and Whistle), and Albert "Tootie" Heath (Drums, Egyptian Flute, Didgeridoo, and Small Percussion).