Roscoe Mitchell and The Sound Ensemble: Almost Like Raindrops


Almost Like Raindrops


Roscoe Mitchell & The Sound Ensemble


Live at the Knitting Factory (Black Saint CD 120120 2)

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Roscoe Mitchell (soprano sax), Hugh Ragin (trumpet), Jaribu Shahid (bass, conga), A. Spencer Barefield (piano, guitar), Tani Tabbal (percussion).

Composed by Roscoe Mitchell


Recorded: New York, November 11, 1987


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

The Sound Ensemble is obviously not a name Roscoe Mitchell chose at random. The improvised music made by this band has less to do with melodies, harmonies, and bar lines than it does sonic exploration unbound by preordained form and structure. The track's title is no accident, either; the pointillist, non-linear nature of the performance resembles the starting and stopping and starting again of a spring shower. While the group employs what is basically a traditional jazz instrumentation, the music (like a good amount of Mitchell's work made apart from the Art Ensemble of Chicago) sounds in part like an attempt to incorporate post-serialist compositional practices into an entirely spontaneous context. On soprano sax, Mitchell engages in herky-jerky, seemingly random intervallic leaps; scalar streams, microtonal inflections, growls and screeches. He's got a large vocabulary from which to draw, and he digs deep, infusing it all with energy and intensity. Guitarist A. Spencer Barefield jousts with Mitchell, his fleet, non-tonal lines bobbing and weaving around the saxophonist's abstractions. Trumpeter Hugh Ragin is fine but diffident. In the main he's content to stay well within the communal sound, gingerly pawing at but never challenging Mitchell's dominant position. The same can be said of bassist Jaribu Shahid and percussionist Tani Tabbal, as well, and why not? Community is what this music is about. It just happens that the leader is the first among equals.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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