Roscoe Mitchell Quartet: Cards For Quartet


Cards For Quartet


Roscoe Mitchell Quartet


The Flow of Things (Black Saint BSR 0090)

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Roscoe Mitchell (soprano sax), Malachi Favors Maghostut (bass), Steve McCall (drums),

Jodie Christian (piano)


Composed by Roscoe Mitchell


Recorded: Chicago, June 29, 1986


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

When he has a mind to, Roscoe Mitchell can play prettier than just about any free jazz saxophonist one can name. Some of his loveliest playing has been done on alto. MItchell's playing on "Cards For Quartet" is a succession of spare, pointillist lines, played with a tone that's sometimes pure, sometimes slightly burred or otherwise subtly inflected. His phrases can seem discontinuous, but more often the continuity is there. It just seems discontinuous, camouflaged by his use of wide and dissonant intervals and his assiduous avoidance of tonality.

According to the liner notes, this performance is a "scored improvisation," a term that (like the piece itself) leaves a great deal of room for interpretation. The music is spacious and mostly very quiet. The musicians alternate their contributions; seldom are they all playing at once. As a consequence the music has a spacious, open feel. Bassist Malachi Favors and drummer Steve McCall make for a great rhythm section. Here they're called upon not to swing but to color, a task they perform with much discernment. The underrated pianist Jodie Christian interfaces very well with Mitchell, his ingenious lines weaving gently through and around the saxophonist's.

The music is as abstract as the painting on the album cover or a composition by Webern. Like much of Mitchell's work, it bears the fragile beauty that characterizes some of the best jazz/contemporary classical hybrids. This was a wonderful band, and this is a fine example of what made it so.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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