All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

62

Roscoe Mitchell: London, England, March 9, 2012

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Roscoe Mitchell
Café Oto
London
March 9, 2012

Saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell followed an increasingly well trod path. Dalston's Cafe Oto has a strong track record in bringing great names from the free jazz past to the north London stage, with previous guest artists including trumpeters Wadada Leo Smith and Ted Daniel, and saxophonists Joe McPhee, John Tchicai, Sonny Simmons and Arthur Doyle.

Now added to that illustrious roster was a two-day residency for the reedman and founding member of Chicago's AACM, though perhaps best known as part of the world-renowned Art Ensemble Of Chicago. Over the years, Mitchell has progressively diversified beyond that freewheeling unit, resulting in such diverse manifestations as his austere collaboration with European musicians in the Transatlantic Art Ensemble on Composition / Improvisation Nos 1, 2 & 3 (ECM, 2007), dialogue with electronics on Contact (Rogue Art, 2009) and a recital of thorough-composed pieces performed by others on Numbers (Rogue Art, 2012).

In contrast, this evening he exposed his spontaneous side, appearing in a trio with two unfamiliar colleagues. Drummer Tony Marsh and bassist John Edwards together form one of London's top improvising rhythm sections, often to be found accompanying saxophonist Evan Parker at his monthly gig at the Vortex, but also seen with John Tchicai, among others. It was fascinating to observe how they negotiated a course through two 50-minute sets.

Mitchell opened on alto saxophone in considered fashion, blowing prolonged notes as if pacing himself, accompanied by a bass drone from Edwards and Marsh's percussion coloration. Though off the cuff, there was a purposefulness to the proceedings that invoked an orchestral feel. Gradually extending his twisted motifs, the horn man constructed sinuous breakneck contours, deploying his experience to interject endless variation into wave after wave of unbroken soliloquy.

Nattily dressed, the reedman sported a jacket (quickly removed as the action heated up), and a sparkly gold tie (which stayed in place throughout), matching his saxophones. Equally striking but more to the point, the veteran displayed amazing energy, stamina and focus. His circular breathing formed a prominent trait of the performance, the long continuous outbursts fizzing with modulations to keep his bristling roller-coaster abstractions aloft. As a consequence, the saxophonist's face conveyed a sequence of complex expressions related to changes in embouchure and the intake of air. Occasional pauses ensured technique didn't become a party piece, rather just another strategy for exploration.

On soprano saxophone he blew very quietly, in a mixture of whispering breaths and silent screaming which occasionally strayed into audibility courtesy of overblown foghorn blasts. Typically he continued to build purposefully, incorporating anguished screeches, at times harrowing, but always demonstrating intense concentration and superb control. Mitchell remained in respectful charge throughout, though pressed and prodded by the rhythm pairing

Tony Marsh

Marsh opted for something different to his usual set up, standing behind an array of drums and percussion that allowed extended timbral range, although it came at the price of eschewing the interlocking cadences which might come from bass drum and hi-hat, making for a more linear delivery. On the plus side, the reduction in rhythmic complexity kept the music open with an airy vibe, permitting more space for the leader and the bassist. Nonetheless, the drummer was still able to contribute telling support, contrasting a roundabout shuffle on toms with off-kilter accents on cymbals and snare.

Edwards maintained a stream of invention in adding commentary to Mitchell's blistering lines, particularly with bow in hand, squeezing strings together, low on the fret board, mingling with the saxophonist's soaring multiphonics. The alchemy of the two was one of the night's highlights. Always looking for new sounds, the bassman threaded his bow between his strings as he plucked, imparting a buzzy thwack. At one juncture the bassist's brief walking pattern elicited a series of rhythmically inflected phrases from the reedman, before resuming his more edgy attack.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Baku Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Baku Jazz Festival 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 13, 2018
Read Joanna Pascale at Chris' Jazz Cafe Live Reviews
Joanna Pascale at Chris' Jazz Cafe
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 13, 2018
Read Moldejazz 2018 Live Reviews
Moldejazz 2018
by Martin Longley
Published: November 10, 2018
Read Nik Bärtsch's Ronin At The Bop Stop Live Reviews
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin At The Bop Stop
by Matt Hooke
Published: November 10, 2018
Read Billy F. Gibbons at the Paramount Live Reviews
Billy F. Gibbons at the Paramount
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: November 10, 2018
Read Tampere Jazz Happening 2018: Warmth for winter Live Reviews
Tampere Jazz Happening 2018: Warmth for winter
by Mike Collins
Published: November 9, 2018
Read "The Nels Cline 4 At Higher Ground" Live Reviews The Nels Cline 4 At Higher Ground
by Doug Collette
Published: July 8, 2018
Read "2018 Hope College Jazz Organ Summit" Live Reviews 2018 Hope College Jazz Organ Summit
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: March 23, 2018
Read "Alan Broadbent Trio at the Deer Head Inn" Live Reviews Alan Broadbent Trio at the Deer Head Inn
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: August 15, 2018
Read "12 Points 2018" Live Reviews 12 Points 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 14, 2018
Read "Moers Festival 2018" Live Reviews Moers Festival 2018
by Martin Longley
Published: July 27, 2018