All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

51

Roscoe Mitchell: Numbers

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
What's the difference between composition and improvisation once the music has been committed to disc? At that point even the wildest flights of fancy become fixed and immutable, able to be reheated and pored over at leisure. One difference may lie in the notation-defying musical characteristics integral to the finest improvisations: continual variation of tone and timbre and a high degree of rhythmic complexity. This distinction could apply to expositions by reeds or strings, but it becomes less pertinent for tempered instruments such as piano. Conversely, a written score allows a level of structural rigor and development of themes beyond all but the most gifted improviser. But matters become blurred when writing is at its most abstract. Perhaps it's ultimately a matter of intent: with scripted material there must be at least the hope of repeated performance, while spontaneously conceived outpourings are in and of the moment.

Those thoughts were prompted upon listening to Numbers, which features works by Art Ensemble of Chicago reedman Roscoe Mitchell played by interpreters of contemporary music. Mitchell himself, playing alto saxophone, appears on just one out of 13 tracks, recorded in multiple sessions over an eight year period from 2002. Even though, as Bill Shoemaker points out in his liners, little of the content would seem out of place individually in any Mitchell set list, the act of bringing these pieces together does make for a different experience. There is no indication as to whether the works are entirely through-composed or allow extemporization into their realization, but in spite of their abstraction, the consistent purity of tone and precision of delivery places them firmly in the contemporary new music camp.

Several cuts stand out. Two versions of "Bells for New Orleans" bookend the program, and a fuller rendition occurs mid-flow, lending a unity of form to the otherwise disparate collection. How the listener reacts to the three settings for e.e. cummings' poems for piano and voice will largely depend upon the response to Thomas Buckner's speech-like intonation. "WR/C 2A Opus 1," for the principal's acid-toned alto saxophone and William Winant's vibes, turns alternately reflective and inquiring. At best (as on "Sketches," where Hans Sturm's warmly lyrical bass sings in the cello register, and the three movements of "8/8/88," delivered staccato, but with rolling syncopated inflections by pianist Stephen Rush), there is sufficient overt melody or cadence to leaven the cerebral austerity which is the dominant characteristic of this album.

Track Listing: Bells for New Orleans (prelude); 9/9/99; Sketches; because it's; this; dim; Bells for New Orleans; WR/C 2A Opus 1; 8/8/88 1st Movement; 8/8/88 2nd Movement; 8/8/88 3rd Movement; 9/9/09; Bells for New Orleans (postlude).

Personnel: Roscoe Mitchell: composition, alto saxophone (8); Thomas Buckner: baritone voice (4, 5, 6); Nils Bultman: viola (12); Joseph Kubera: piano (2, 4, 5, 6); Vartan Manoogian: violin (2); Stephen Rush: piano (9, 10, 11); Hans Sturm: double bass (3); Joan Wildman: piano (3); William Winant: tubular bells (1, 13), orchestra bells (7), vibraphone (8).

Title: Numbers | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Rogue Art

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Dirt...And More Dirt CD/LP/Track Review
Dirt...And More Dirt
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Locked & Loaded CD/LP/Track Review
Locked & Loaded
by John Kelman
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Long Story Short CD/LP/Track Review
Long Story Short
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Awase CD/LP/Track Review
Awase
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich CD/LP/Track Review
Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich
by John Sharpe
Published: May 26, 2018
Read My Singing Fingers CD/LP/Track Review
My Singing Fingers
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 25, 2018
Read "Ritual" CD/LP/Track Review Ritual
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: January 25, 2018
Read "The Best of Bossacucanova" CD/LP/Track Review The Best of Bossacucanova
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: June 6, 2017
Read "My One And Only Love: Live at Theater Gütersloh" CD/LP/Track Review My One And Only Love: Live at Theater Gütersloh
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 11, 2018
Read "Ara" CD/LP/Track Review Ara
by Don Phipps
Published: January 4, 2018
Read "Don't You Wish?" CD/LP/Track Review Don't You Wish?
by Patrick Burnette
Published: March 3, 2018
Read "Backstage Pass" CD/LP/Track Review Backstage Pass
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2018