Roscoe Mitchell: Streaming & Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3


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Muhal Richard Abrams/George Lewis/Roscoe Mitchell

Roscoe Mitchell / The Transatlantic Art Ensemble
Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3

Roscoe Mitchell moves from strength to strength, as he's done since 1967's revolutionary Sound, recorded for Delmark. Whether in improvised collaboration or in his own compositions, the textured silences and lush timbral explorations of that ground-breaking statement have continued for over 40 years.

Streaming brings Mitchell together with two other legends of the Chicago scene, AACM founder and composer/keyboardist Muhal Richard Abrams and the prolific trombonist George Lewis, a multi- instrumentalist and philosopher in his own right. Such a meeting could be disastrous if ego was allowed to win the day, but the proceedings remain firmly in soul territory. Room is always left for each voice to be heard, or rather multiplicity of voices, as each musician employs a huge range of timbres. The interplay embraces some of Lewis' most beautiful electronic soundscapes ("Bound , for example) and the others follow suit, almost making technological experimentation null and void with delicious mixtures of air and resonance. This is an absolutely gorgeous journey through spontaneous composition by three masters of the technique.

Fittingly, the other disc under discussion works along similar lines, only on a grander scale. In Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3, notated material is juxtaposed with improvised dialogue in a way that is both intellectually interesting and musically satisfying on many levels. Like Boulez' structures of the '50s and '60s, Mitchell's nine-part suite (three multi-section pieces) are sequenced out of order, putting a stranglehold on any conventional grasp of temporality. The music itself bolsters the illusion, long passages of post-Webern pointillism superimposed over Varèse-ian shocks and bursts, all underpinned by the pulsing shadow of Ligeti. Yet, these are simply comparisons, the voice being Mitchell's own, just as his saxophone playing is definitive. Mitchell, in tandem with the equally venerable Evan Parker, has assembled a cast of 14 of the US and Europe's finest improvisers, each given a beautifully reverberant atmosphere by ECM's recording team. Ensemble passages of intensity and grit are never detrimentally softened and the 80-minute suite is a triumph of stunning solo work and monumental group interplay that crosses and recrosses boundaries as it proceeds. With Mitchell exploring such fertile avenues, any guess at future plans would be folly. May he continue in whatever direction his muse leads him.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Scrape: Bound; Dramaturns; Soundhear; Steaming.

Personnel: Muhal Richard Abrams: piano, bell, bamboo flute, taxi horn, percussion; George Lewis: trombone, laptop; Roscoe Mitchell: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, percussion.

Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3

Tracks: I (from Composition/Improvisation 2); II (from Composition/Improvisation 2); III (from Composition/Improvisation 3); IV (from Composition/Improvisation 1); V (from Composition/Improvisation 2); VI (from Composition/Improvisation 2); VII (from Composition/Improvisation 2); VIII (from Composition/Improvisation 1); IX (from Composition/Improvisation 2).

Personnel: Roscoe Mitchell: soprano saxophone; Evan Parker: soprano and tenor saxophones; Anders Svanoe: alto and baritone saxophones; John Rangecroft: clarinet; Neil Metcalfe: flute; Corey Wilkes: trumpet, flugelhorn; Nils Bultmann: viola; Philipp Wachsmann: violin; Marcio Mattos: cello; Craig Taborn: piano; Jaribu Shahid: bass; Barry Guy: bass; Tani Tabbal: drums, percussion, Paul Lytton: drums, percussion.

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