You never really know what's up pianist Matt Mitchell's sleeve. As a sideman he's constantly adapting and growing, creating different palettes and situations that expand the color and content in the music of the Dave Douglas Quintet, Tim Berne's Snakeoil, John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Bird Calls quintet, and other high profile outfits; as a leader, there's less output to go on, but Mitchell's first two releasesFiction (Pi Recordings, 2013) and this double-disc albumserve as demonstrations of his significant powers of invention.
Fiction found Mitchell in a duo setting with celebrated drummer Ches Smith, using (mostly) short, self-made piano etudes as a springboard. Vista Accumulation is far different, as Mitchell works with a quartet and delivers lengthy and penetrative works that are at once precise and exploratory in nature. His bandmatesmulti-reedist Chris Speed, bassist Chris Tordini, and drummer Dan Weissare simpatico in every way, lining up with Mitchell's bleak and oblique viewpoints while demonstrating patience and ingenuity throughout.
Each of these eight pieces come off as sagas, not songs, with Mitchell and company painting vast swaths of sonic imagery. Acute observation and examination may be at the root of one composition ("Select Your Existence") while another may magnetically draw the ear toward wildly gamboling sounds ("Numb Trudge"). And often, just when it might seem that these four are lost in an aural fog, feelings of clarity and assuranceangular unison lines perfectly executed by two or more players, all four powers achieving critical masscut through the din.
Throughout these sprawling narratives, Mitchell manages to brilliantly blend specificity with indeterminacy. Aberrant rhythmic constructs with meticulous design elements arrive at open and semi-desolate panoramas, lines resembling tone rows give shape to the music while individuals pull away from those very same shapes, and rhythm becomes a pliable concept that's central to the way this music comes in and out of standard focus.
Fiction was all about meting out creative thought in small portions, but Vista Accumulation is a different beast: this album is grand scale all the way.
Disc 1: Select Your Existence; All the Elasticity; Numb Trudge; ‘twouldn’t’ve.
Disc 2: Utensil Strength; Wearing the Wig of Atrophy; Hyper Pathos; The Damaged
Matt Mitchell: piano; Chris Speed: tenor sax and clarinet; Christopher Tordini: bass; Dan
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