In a recent interview, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire related the story of when he first visited a jazz club; as an eighth grader in Oakland, he experienced a performance by Art Ensemble Of Chicago. What a spectacle it must have been and, of course, he would have witnessed the maestro himself, Roscoe Mitchell.
Decades later Akinmusire, some 42 years Mitchell's junior, dedicated a song, "Mr. Roscoe (Consider The Simultaneous)," on his release On The Tender Spot Of Every Calloused Moment (Blue Note Records, 2020) and performs here with the Roscoe Mitchell Quartet on Come and See What There Is to See, along with bassist Junius Paul and drummer Vincent Davis. This live performance at The Lab in San Francisco in 2018 consists of one near-hour-long piece and with two mini-satellites which follow.
Mitchell's performances of late have focused on exploring and analyzing improvisations by elongating the process. A sort of fine-tooth comb approach. He does so in his orchestral works and here, in quartet. Akinmusire is a willing partner inserting breathy slurs, growling carbonations, and parsed lines. The pair do not adhere to the a call-and-response approach, but seem to be communicating as if they are journeying down parallel lines. Both Paul and Davis are tasked with tethering the brass and woodwinds to the locomotive, which is quite evident as the intensity of the performance surges. Thirty-nine minutes into the set, Mitchell sets his saxophone down to allow Akinmusire to deliver a stunning acrobatic circular-breathing solo which is part breath, part fiery notes. Coming together once again, Mitchell returns to his micro-analysis of notes before a brief venture into Mitchell's "Odwalla," a composition The Art Ensemble Of Chicago often referenced. For those with short attention spans, the encore compresses an entire hour of energy music into just two-and-a-half minutes.
Come and See What There Is to See; Odwalla; The Last Word (encore).
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