A regular member of Tim Berne's Snakeoil and the Dave Douglas Quintet, pianist/keyboardist/composer Matt Mitchell has recently appeared on Rudresh Mahanthappa's Bird Calls (ACT Music, 2015) and Jonathan Finlayson's Moving Still (Pi Recordings, 2016). Mitchell has worked with a broad array of top-name artists including Steve Coleman, John Hollenbeck and Mario Pavone. Mitchell is a chameleon, able to take on completely different musical personas across of fast array of situations. His own Vista Accumulation (Pi Recordings, 2015) was one of the most highly regarded releases of that year. Frequently in demand, he has managed to produce ten albums as a leader or co-leader. The most recent, A Pouting Grimace, is an eclectic collection that defies categorization.
The very brief "Bulb Terminus" is a bit of programmed reverie that leads to the loosely structured "Plate Shapes," a multifaceted maelstrom of cadences and noises with an impulsive sense of movement. Irabagon and bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck spend much of the time searching for their own alternate routes. "Brim" is the centerpiece of A Pouting Grimace as it provides a platform for the development of the surrounding compositions. At the core of "Brim" is a phantasmagorical, full-ensemble mélange that feels omnidirectional and free-flowing. The longest piece on the album, "Sick Fields" is an episodic anomaly that moves in fits and starts; it is as unstoppable as it isat timesimpenetrable. "Ooze Interim" concludes the album with a floating, solo electronics performance from Mitchell.
The free nature, density and complexity of A Pouting Grimace does not give way to blowout solos or overall chaos. The musicians wander a marauder's map, at times, interacting with each other, or occasionally looking for their own opening. This is an album focused on detail; it can be identified in slight, contrasting hues and in unflinching statements. It is certainly a unique and challenging listen.
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