Saxophonist/composer Dennis Mitcheltree’s new recording, his sixth as a leader, Golden Rule, is one brimming with humanity. The music celebrates family, lost friends, his major inspirations (including tenor giants John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, and others), and speaks directly to our shared journey through life, and the imperative to treat each other with love, respect, trust and dignity – in short – to treat others as you wish to be treated. The music on Golden Rule is a reflection of that notion. It also swings like mad and engages the listener with nine wonderfully crafted compositions from Mitcheltree.
“The long arc of humanity bends upward towards cooperation,” says Mitcheltree. That is exemplified in his ensemble, which features pianist Johannes Wallmann, bassist Jesse Crawford and drummer Bill McClellan. The quartet has been playing music together for several decades, and, “have become personally simpatico and musically empathetic. We’ve toured the world and working together is never a struggle as we trust each other on a deep and instinctual level. The Golden Rule is followed when we play music - treating each other as we wish to be treated: with respect, freedom, and joy,” explains Mitcheltree. He continues, “in collaboration each musician brings their individuality to the music and allowing them to do so makes the music better. When I embrace my bandmate’s contributions I find that the music can go places I hadn’t imagined. We have our own individual lives and projects, but when we perform together a unique entity is formed. What we create together is more powerful and beautiful than any single contribution.”
Mitcheltree has performed and recorded with masters of the jazz world: Clark Terry, Billy Taylor, George Cables, Bill Holman, Bob Moses, Jim McNeely, Howard Johnson, Gary Bartz, Kenny Werner, James Williams, Don Sickler, Charli Persip, Ronnie Matthews, Pete Yellin, Richie Cole, Bill Holman, Pete Christlieb, Doug Webb, Carl Saunders, Joe Labarbera, John Clayton, Christian Jacob and Bruce Forman along with contemporaries Uri Caine, Ingrid Jensen, Johannes Wallmann, Andy Milne and David Binney.
The saxophonist and composer was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Starting on oboe at the age of 12 and picking up the baritone sax for his school jazz band, Mitcheltree was interested in music from the outset. By the time he was in high school he concentrated exclusively on the tenor saxophone and discovering the rich history of jazz.
Turning down a scholarship to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music's Jazz Program, Mitcheltree headed to the East Coast, choosing to enroll at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. There he met like-minded students and could be found in the ensemble rooms of the college working on his music on a daily basis. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a major in performance in 1987, and then made the move to New York.