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Solo Saxophones: Roscoe Mitchell, Paul Flaherty & John Butcher

Kurt Gottschalk By

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Roscoe Mitchell
Nonaah
Nessa
2008


Paul Flaherty
Aria Nativa
Family Vineyard
2009


John Butcher
Resonant Spaces
Confront
2008


The solo horn concert was one of the landmarks of the early days of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. It wasn't without precedent (see Sonny Rollins on the Manhattan Bridge), but the Chicago collective of eclectic virtuosity made it repertory. AACM member Anthony Braxton was the first to release a solo saxophone record (For Alto, Delmark, 1968), but Roscoe Mitchell (who was the first person out of the AACM to release a record, with Sound, issued by Delmark two years earlier) has been no stranger to the call of the horn. He released Solo Saxophone Concerts on Sackville in 1974 and an expansive three-CD set, Solo [3], on Mutable in 2004. And in 1977, Mitchell put out Nonaah, a double album on Nessa and one of the most fascinating records in his long discography.

The album isn't entirely solo: It contains duos with Braxton and Mitchell's fellow Art Ensemble of Chicago member Malachi Favors, as well as a quartet with Henry Threadgill, Wallace McMillan and the Art Ensemble's Joseph Jarman and a trio with Muhal Richard Abrams and George Lewis (who reconvened for the excellent 2006 record Streaming). Central to the 1977 record is the title track, a fantastically knotty composition presented in solo and sax quartet versions. Mitchell isn't one to retrace his steps and "Nonaah" is one of the few pieces he's continued to revisit over the years. The two solo versions are variably brusque and hypnotic, whereas the quartet is perplexing in its open/composed structuring. Together, those would have been enough for an entirely satisfying LP, but the added solo and group pieces make the album a strong portrait of a restless artist. The new CD reissue adds a 35-minute solo concert from 1977, recorded in Berkeley, making for an indispensable document of Mitchell's '70s work outside the Art Ensemble.

The solo concert can be an interesting context for the most blustery of saxophonists. Freed of the drive of competing players, new sides often reveal themselves (witness David S. Ware's return to the stage last month at Abrons Arts Center). New Englander Paul Flaherty is a powerful voice in the Peter Br

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