Roscoe Mitchell: Music for Trombone & B Flat Soprano
Music For Trombone and B Flat Soprano
Roscoe Mitchell (soprano sax)
Quartet (Sackville SKCD2-2009)
Recorded: October 4 or 5, 1975
Rating: 97/100 (learn more)
The initial free jazz successes of the late '50s and early '60s were centered mostly in New York, where musicians like Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Bill Dixon, Archie Shepp and others lived and developed their new music. New York's monopoly on the avant-garde didn't last long, however. The experimental impulse spread to other jazz communities across the world. In Chicago in the mid '60s, a second major U.S. scene sprung up, as musicians like Roscoe Mitchell and George Lewis (in the company of Muhal Richard Abrams, Phil Cohran, Anthony Braxton, Joseph Jarman, and others) founded the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. More so than the New Yorkers, members of the AACM combined elements of 20th-century European-derived art music with jazz, resulting in a unique and altogether innovative stripe of improvised music.
Roscoe Mitchell and George Lewis both turned out to be among the most adventurous of the Chicago crowd, their music blurring anything resembling a barrier separating jazz and experimental classical music. This track—a trombone/soprano sax duo—is representative of their intrepidness. A jazz sensibility suffuses the phrasing of both Lewis and Mitchell, yet the spare instrumentation, spiky melodic contours, and creative use of silence bespeak an admiration for contemporary classical compositional techniques. Mitchell is probably best known for his work with The Art Ensemble of Chicago, yet it's often quieter projects like this that show his subtle instrumental concept to its best advantage. While he obviously owes a debt to Coltrane, Mitchell's soprano work is nevertheless unique, and in some ways can be considered an advance on both Coltrane and Steve Lacy. His use of dissonant, widely-spaced intervals is almost Webern-esque. His concentration on the more acute aspects of tone production has parallels in the work of Lacy, yet Mitchell's approach is his and his alone. Lewis is as distinctive and attentive to detail.
This music is finely-wrought, yet deceptively strong—like a spiderweb spun from piano wire.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey