Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

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

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Live Reviews
Odean Pope Quartet at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
By Victor L. Schermer
January 15, 2019
Live Reviews
Denise Donatelli at Mezzrow
By Nicholas F. Mondello
January 10, 2019
Live Reviews
The Los Cabos Jazz Experience 2018
By Wendy Ross
January 5, 2019
Live Reviews
Rene Marie With Experiment In Truth At The Jazz Corner
By Martin McFie
January 3, 2019
Live Reviews
Joey Alexander Trio With Chris Potter at SFJAZZ
By Harry S. Pariser
December 31, 2018
Live Reviews
Live From Birmingham: Joe Louis Walker, Alasdair Roberts & Brian Jackson
By Martin Longley
December 29, 2018

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html/content/chunks/overlay/aaj-sitemap.php on line 5