576

Roscoe Mitchell / David Wessel: Contact

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Roscoe Mitchell / David Wessel: Contact While esteemed reedman Roscoe Mitchell has appeared in any number of challenging settings, this marks his first documented encounter with electronics. Not that this is a recent move, more that the fruits of his collaboration with David Wessel have not seen the light of day until now. They first met back in 1968 when Mitchell, along with other members of the Art Ensemble Of Chicago, moved into the house next door to Wessel's California home. Over the years projects included a piece for the 1986 International Computer Music Conference, the 2002 sessions presented here on CD following Wessel's invitation to the saxophonist for a two week residency at the University of California Berkley, as well as the 2004 performance from IRCAM in Paris, captured here on DVD.

Over time, computer technology has developed to the point that Wessel no longer needs a stage full of equipment, but uses a touchpad interface which he plays sitting in a way that is reminiscent of a keyboard player. Mitchell confines himself to alto and soprano saxophones, with all music apparently improvised in the moment. Paradoxically the strangest sounds emanate from Mitchell's saxophone, not the electronics, with circular breathing utilized to an extreme degree, resulting in sound forms alienated from human warmth even at the same time being comprised of breath.

Some of the strongest passages come when Wessel's electronics evoke conventional instruments. "For Oliver Johnson, part 1" starts as a slow paced thoughtful shimmer of austere beauty lit by Mitchell's ethereal saxophone. A lovely moment transpires when the saxophonist's spiraling yelps and multiphonics blend with Wessel's muffled burbling and indeterminate organ and bell tinkling sounds, as if from a single multi-textured instrument.

There is no break before "part 2" where Wessel hits on a lurching rhythm with textures like tabla, sitar, and percussion which approximate an out of focus raga. Against this Mitchell pitches an unrelenting stream of saxophone consciousness in a hypnotic coruscating tour de force. "Moving" merges with "Schreeds," which similarly contains another astonishing saxophone exposition with bitten off phrases linked together into an emphatic unbroken flow, bearing witness to some of Mitchell's most explosive work on disc in years, irrespective of backing.

But it's not all thunder and lightning. On "Orange Sky" Wessel's high pitched pure tones intermingle with Mitchell's capricious swooping flute like an electronic chorus in a hall of mirrors, while the DVD captures a persistently intense but understated performance. Small bubbling susurrations whimper from the bell of the reedman's circular breathed alto with almost imperceptible variations, accompanied by ambient washes and exhalations from Wessel's electronics. It's all very minimalist with even the slightest elevations assuming great significance in such level terrain. Shot from a fixed position, head on, by a lone camera, both seated musicians are not the most visually dynamic tableau. Strangely there are several unexplained fades in and out, but as the single piece develops and changes very slowly fortunately this isn't too much of a disruption.


Track Listing: CD: For Oliver Johnson, part 1; For Oliver Johnson, part 2; Orange Sky; Moving; Schreeds; Jakarta; The Call. DVD: Contact: Sound & Music.

Personnel: Roscoe Mitchell: alto and soprano saxophones, flute; David Wessel: electronics

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Rogue Art | Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Love Dance CD/LP/Track Review Love Dance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Honest Woman CD/LP/Track Review Honest Woman
by James Nadal
Published: February 20, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau" CD/LP/Track Review Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 16, 2017
Read "The Outlier" CD/LP/Track Review The Outlier
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 22, 2016
Read "Marianne" CD/LP/Track Review Marianne
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 28, 2016
Read "A Zoology of the Future" CD/LP/Track Review A Zoology of the Future
by John Sharpe
Published: September 23, 2016
Read "Sputnik Stan Vol. 1: A Fistful Of Junk" CD/LP/Track Review Sputnik Stan Vol. 1: A Fistful Of Junk
by Jack Gold-Molina
Published: March 1, 2016
Read "Nakedonia" CD/LP/Track Review Nakedonia
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 25, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!