302

Muhal Richard Abrams / Roscoe Mitchell: Spectrum

Kurt Gottschalk By

Sign in to view read count
Muhal Richard Abrams / Roscoe Mitchell: Spectrum Muhal Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell are arguably the two figures most central to the birth and rearing of the seminal '60s collective the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). The organization was borne out of Abrams' Experimental Band and the first standing group to emerge from it was the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble (later rechristened the Art Ensemble Of Chicago). It seems a bit strange, then, that their careers have run such separate, while nearly parallel, paths. Both have worked deeply in the particular form of exploratory jazz that came out of the AACM through various instrumentations and structures for composing and improvising; however they've rarely done so together. Abrams plays on an early Art Ensemble record, Mitchell in some of Abrams' early ensembles. They recorded together (and apart) on the 1993 Black Saint release Duets and Solos, an album that didn't quite seem to gel into the meeting it should have been, and then with far more satisfactory results on Streaming (Pi Recordings, 2006), in trio with George Lewis. In short, their separately illustrious careers have overlapped only occasionally and with mixed results.

Spectrum continues this unusual association (coincidentally, it includes some thoughtful liner notes by Lewis, reuniting the Streaming trio in a very different way). The album opens with a beautiful 12-minute duet that realizes the promise the meeting of these two improvisers holds. "Romu" is just plain lovely, a beautiful, unhurried interaction building slowly to a relative frenzy but never losing its center. The rest of the album will no doubt meet with varied reactions, but the duo piece alone sells it.

The remainder of the album puts the Janácek Philharmonic (with Petr Kotik conducting) at each of their disposal and shows an interest on both their parts in mixing mid-20th Century orchestral vocabulary with romantic flourish. Mitchell's "Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City" is a tone poem using text by Art Ensemble band mate Joseph Jarman (the poem also provided the title for a 2006 Art Ensemble album, although Mitchell's score doesn't appear there). The text is delivered in broad, operatic strokes by Thomas Buckner, whose improv outings can seem rather straying but who has always worked well with Mitchell. The string-heavy ensemble plays a support role here, making a bed for the round syllables of the verse. It's an accomplished piece, even if it doesn't measure up to Mitchell's horn-driven work.

Abrams' "Mergertone" covers a remarkable lot of ground over its 17 minutes. Opening with a spacey synthesizer (presumably it's Abrams playing) the piece works through so many ideas, from suggestions of Varèse percussion rhythms to simple, layered harmonies to pastoral, tonal passages. It all seems to move a little too quickly—the piece could be twice as long and have more breathing room—but it reveals a surprising new angle of the enigmatic composer.

Track Listing: Romu; Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City; Mergertone.

Personnel: Muhal Richard Abrams: piano; Roscoe Mitchell: saxophones; Thomas Buckner: baritone; Petr Kotik: conductor; Janáček Philharmonic.

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Mutable Music | Style: Beyond Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Rags And Roots CD/LP/Track Review Rags And Roots
by James Nadal
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Tangled CD/LP/Track Review Tangled
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Is It Me...? CD/LP/Track Review Is It Me...?
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Live CD/LP/Track Review Live
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 25, 2017
Read 14.11.2016 CD/LP/Track Review 14.11.2016
by Nicola Negri
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Malnoia CD/LP/Track Review Malnoia
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 24, 2017
Read "Convallaria" CD/LP/Track Review Convallaria
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 22, 2016
Read "Fe" CD/LP/Track Review Fe
by James Nadal
Published: August 30, 2016
Read "Caipi" CD/LP/Track Review Caipi
by Geannine Reid
Published: March 24, 2017
Read "Peace and Love: A Tribute to Will Connell" CD/LP/Track Review Peace and Love: A Tribute to Will Connell
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 28, 2017
Read "Rehab Reunion" CD/LP/Track Review Rehab Reunion
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 11, 2016
Read "Signature" CD/LP/Track Review Signature
by Chris Mosey
Published: August 17, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!