Reviews that mention Roscoe Mitchell

February 1, 2021

Roscoe Mitchell

Angelica IDA039/IDA040

Zeitkratzer & ensemble 2e2m

Reinhold Friedl—KRAFFT

Zeitkratzer productions zkr0027/Bocian Records zv

Whether composers are the best interpreters of their own music becomes a moot question when it comes to sounds informed by improvised music. At least the idea is elaborated, if not resolved, on these discs where the composers take part in the performances of their music.

More straightforward as well as innovative, KRAFFT features a reading of a forceful composition of the same name, commissioned by the French state and played by its composer German pianist Reinhold Friedl with the eight piece Zeitkratzer band he directs plus the nine-piece French ensemble 2e2m conducted by Pierre Roullier. Splatter on the other hand features two orchestrations of small group compositions by American saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell played by the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, conducted by Tonino Battista, with Mitchell and US baritone Thomas Buckner as soloists. The CD also features a massive Mega Luna dual instant composition performed by Mitchell and Italian Francesco Filidei on pipe organ. MORE

February 8, 2020

El Intruso’s

12th Annual International Critics Poll
Ken Waxman’s 2019 ballot

Musician of the year: Joe McPhee

Newcomer Musician: Timothée Quost, Gaspard Beck

Group of the year: Roots Magic, Tonus, Joe McPhee Trio

Newcomer group: MétamOrphée

Album of the year: Quatuor de Jazz Libre Du Québec, Musique Politique Anthologie 1971-1974 (Tour de Bras) Uri Caine, The Passion of Octavius Catto (816 Music)

Composer: Roscoe Mitchell, Uri Caine, Harris Eisenstad

Drums; Gerald Cleaver, Steve Noble, Tim Daisy

Acoustic Bass Joëlle Léandre, Barry Guy, Barre Phillips MORE

September 17, 2019

George Lewis/Roscoe Mitchell

Voyage and Homecoming
RogueArt ROG 0086

By Ken Waxman

A mostly trio session featuring only two musicians, this CD is defined that way because Voyager, its more than 25-minute centrepiece, features close interaction among veteran improvisers, trombonist George Lewis and saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and an acoustic Disklavier piano programmed by Lewis’ interactive Voyager software.

Reacting to the sounds generated by the horn players, the piano’s recital-ready introduction soon develops splintered and syncopated cadenzas and clusters which during the sequence-development accompanies first the trombonist’s expansive pumps and then the alto saxophonist’s bluesy extended line. Obviously never outpacing the humans, the piano accompaniment moves from dynamic glissandi to jolts and jumps, making common cause with Mitchell’s thin reed snarls and Lewis’ plunger blats. The polyphonic climax arrives as the three sound layers intersect at top volume, but with individual contributions very audible. MORE

February 6, 2019

Roscoe Mitchell

Delmark DE 4408

Milford Graves


Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsDCD052

Bobby Naughton/Leo Smith/Perry Robinson

The Haunt

NoBusiness Records NBCD 105

Instant Composers Pool


Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsDCD056

Cosmic Forest

The Spiritual Sounds of MPS

MPS 4029759122562

Something in the Air: CD Reissues help define the massive musical changes of the 1960s and 1970s

By Ken Waxman

June 11, 2018

Roscoe Mitchell-Matthew Shipp

Accelerated Projection
RogueArt Rog 0079

Roscoe Mitchell

Bells for the South Side

ECM 2494/2495

Roscoe Mitchell/Montreal-Toronto Art Orchestra

Ride the Wind

Nessa ncd-40

Daniel Carter/William Parker/Matthew Shipp

Seraphic Light

AUM Fidelity AUM 106

Something In The Air: The Continued Relevance of Composer/Performer Roscoe Mitchell

By Ken Waxman

More than a half-century after his recording debut, multi-reedist Roscoe Mitchell shows no sign of slowing down as a player or composer. One of the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM) and the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC), Mitchell, who also teaches, keeps the AEC going alongside experiments with ensembles ranging from duos to big bands. Many of the bigger configurations are pliable however, so what at first appear to be a large ensemble turns out to be several subsets of musicians who more faithfully portray some of Mitchell’s thornier compositions. MORE

June 11, 2018

Roscoe Mitchell

Bells for the South Side
ECM 2494/2495

Roscoe Mitchell/Montreal-Toronto Art Orchestra

Ride the Wind

Nessa ncd-40

Roscoe Mitchell-Matthew Shipp

Accelerated Projection

RogueArt Rog 0079

Daniel Carter/William Parker/Matthew Shipp

Seraphic Light

AUM Fidelity AUM 106

Something In The Air: The Continued Relevance of Composer/Performer Roscoe Mitchell

By Ken Waxman

More than a half-century after his recording debut, multi-reedist Roscoe Mitchell shows no sign of slowing down as a player or composer. One of the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM) and the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC), Mitchell, who also teaches, keeps the AEC going alongside experiments with ensembles ranging from duos to big bands. Many of the bigger configurations are pliable however, so what at first appear to be a large ensemble turns out to be several subsets of musicians who more faithfully portray some of Mitchell’s thornier compositions. MORE

June 11, 2018

Roscoe Mitchell/Montreal-Toronto Art Orchestra

Ride the Wind
Nessa ncd-40

Roscoe Mitchell

Bells for the South Side

ECM 2494/2495

Roscoe Mitchell-Matthew Shipp

Accelerated Projection

RogueArt Rog 0079

Daniel Carter/William Parker/Matthew Shipp

Seraphic Light

AUM Fidelity AUM 106

Something In The Air: The Continued Relevance of Composer/Performer Roscoe Mitchell

By Ken Waxman

More than a half-century after his recording debut, multi-reedist Roscoe Mitchell shows no sign of slowing down as a player or composer. One of the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM) and the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC), Mitchell, who also teaches, keeps the AEC going alongside experiments with ensembles ranging from duos to big bands. Many of the bigger configurations are pliable however, so what at first appear to be a large ensemble turns out to be several subsets of musicians who more faithfully portray some of Mitchell’s thornier compositions. MORE

February 11, 2018

Atlantique Jazz Festival 14

Brest, France October 10 to October 14, 2017
By Ken Waxman

Did the first Black American music heard in France arrive with the African-American troops of the American Expeditionary Force, who landed in the port city of Brest in 1917?

This thesis is the basis of Nicolas Nogue’s film Quand le jazz débarque/Sammies in Brest, which was shown to a sold-out house at the mammoth Le Quartz theatre on October 12 as part of Brest’s 14th annual Atlantique Jazz Festival (AJF). While a syncopated score by pianist Christofer Bjurström mixed with appropriately descriptive noises from Vincent Raude’s electronics accentuated the silent archival newsreels, the few shots of soldiers singing or dancing didn’t make much of a case for jazz’s dissemination in France. More credible Yank-Gallic jazz admixtures were live festival performances by several American musicians who exhibited a profound rapprochement with their French counterparts. MORE

February 6, 2018

Roscoe Mitchell

Duets with Anthony Braxton
Delmark/Sackville SK 3016

Spontaneous Music Ensemble (1968)

Karyobin are the imaginary birds said to live in paradise

Emanem 5046

Steve Lacy

Free for a Minute (1965-72)

Emanem 5210

Hans Reichel (1973)

Wichlinghauser Blues

Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 033

Something In The Air: Historical Free Music Documents Reappear on CD

By Ken Waxman

Arguably the most important and least understood sound of the 20th Century, Free Music which combined jazz’s freedom with noted music’s rigour, while aiming for in-the-moment creation has now been around for almost six decades. With its advances now accepted as part of the ongoing sonic landscape, long out-of-print are being reissued and reappraised for their excellence. MORE

October 6, 2016

Roscoe Mitchell Trio

Angel City
RogueArt ROG-0061

Ensemble SuperMusique

Les accords intuitifs

Ambiances Magnétiques AM 222



NoBusiness NBLP 92/93

RED Trio with John Butcher

Summer Skyshift

Clean Feed CF 372 CD

Jack DeJohnette

In Movement

ECM 2488

Something in the Air: Interpreting Roscoe Mitchell’s Challenging and Influential Music

By Ken Waxman

June 1, 2016

Artist Feature

Mike Reed
By Ken Waxman

Chicago drummer Mike Reed, 42, is a realist – and a visionary. More than a dozen years ago he experienced his own epiphany about the (jazz) music business and his place in it while working part time as a bartender. “I was thinking about my future and how I didn’t want to still be a bartender when I was 39 … or 49,” he recalls. Reed who at that point had been involved with different bands in Chicago’s music ferment since his mid-‘90s return to the city after completing a degree in English and Psychology at the University of Dayton Ohio, was with cornetist Josh Berman, already co-curating a series of Sunday sessions at the Hungry Brain club. Earlier, while working for a marketing agency he had helped organize city concerts encouraging people to vote in the presidential election. Promotion seemed to be the appropriate career choice and within a year, he had partnered with Pitchfork, a Chicago-based online music magazine, to create the annual summer Pitchfork Music Festival which is still going strong. MORE

January 1, 2016

NPR’s 10th Annual

Jazz Critics Poll Ballot

Ken Waxman (The New York City Jazz Record, Jazz Word)


  1. Roscoe Mitchell, Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa)
  2. Daniel Carter-William Parker-Federico Ughi, Navajo Sunrise (Rudi)
  3. François Carrier-Michel Lambert-Rafal Mazur, Unknowable (Not Two)
  4. Anna Webber, Refraction (Pirouet)
  5. Tim Berne, You've Been Watching Me (ECM)
  6. Evan Parker, Seven (Victo)
  7. Samuel Blaser, Spring Rain (Whirlwind)
  8. Akira Sakata-Giovanni Di Domenico-John Edwards-Steve Noble, Live at Cafe Oto (Clamshell)
  9. James Falzone & the Renga Ensemble, The Room Is (Allos Documents)
  10. George Freeman & Chico Freeman, All in the Family (Southport)

November 21, 2015

Roscoe Mitchell

Celebrating Fred Anderson
Nessa ncd-37

Rob Reddy

Bechet: Our Contemporary

Reddy Music RED 003

Erik Friedlander


Skipstone SSR 22

Arrigo Cappelleti/Furio Di Castri/Bruce Ditmas

Homage to Paul Bley

Leo Records CD LR 732

Barry Harris

Plays Tadd Dameron

Xanadu Master Edition 906071

Something In The Air: Honoring More Than The Few Famous Jazz Greats

By Ken Waxman

With music like the other arts increasingly focused on known quantities, recorded salutes to jazz greats have almost become a subcategory of their own. If the world needs another record of Beethoven, Mozart, Elvis or Sinatra, then saluting Ellington, Trane or Miles one more time shouldn’t be a dilemma. But more erudite improvisers realize the music’s wider reach, and if they opt to honor innovators, as on the CDs here, choose lesser-known but equally important stylists. MORE

October 1, 2015


Laroy Wallace McMillan
By Ken Waxman

On the back cover of Henry’s Threadgill’s influential X-75 Vol. 1 LP from 1979, the lanky flutist is surrounded by an all-star assemblage including vocalist/pianist Amina Claudine Myers, flautists Douglas Ewart and Joseph Jarman and bassists Rufus Reid, Brian Smith, Leonard Jones and Fred Hopkins. Squatting in the foreground, almost dwarfed by Hopkins’ bass, is flautist Laroy Wallace McMillan, probably the least known early AACM member. The photo is an apt metaphor for McMillan’s low-profile. New Yorkers however will get to him play in his first Gotham gig in almost two decades this month, as part of pianist Muhal Richard Abrams ensemble also featuring Myers and Jones. MORE

May 7, 2015


Hugh Ragin
By Ken Waxman

For trumpeter Hugh Ragin, 64, the touchstones of his long career have been performing, teaching and pivoting. Considering that as part of what he describes as his “360 degree musicianship”, over the years the trumpeter has been a member of bands led by the likes of Roscoe Mitchell and Maynard Ferguson; that Ragin has taught at locations ranging from Colorado secondary schools, Ohio’s Oberlin and the University of California San Diego jazz camp, the first two are obvious. Swiftly moving or “pivoting” from one part of the country to the other and from one genre to the other though, is how he has kept his career lively during those years. And he’s done this all while remaining based in Aurora, Colorado, a Denver suburb, where he moved in the mid-‘70s.while studying for his masters in trumpet performance MORE

December 6, 2014

Creative Music Studio

Archive Selections, Vol. 1
Innova 805

By Ken Waxman

Brainchild of Ornette Coleman, Karl Berger and Ingrid Ingrid Sertso, the Woodstock, N.Y.-based Creative Music Studio (CMS) has had an influence that continues to resonate past its physical presence from 1971-1984. Dedicated to erasing the false barriers among different musics, its workshops and concerts not only helped spread freer sounds among players identified with jazz or so-called classical music, but with participants from overseas welcomed, it helped birth a sophisticated variant of world music. MORE

May 9, 2014

Artist Feature

Greg Ward
By Ken Waxman

Back in the heyday of vaudeville, answering affirmatively the question “Will It Play in Peoria?” meant that if an act could impress the audience in that small Illinois town, it was good enough to work nationwide. Ironically enough alto saxophonist Greg Ward embodies that maxim. Before moving to NYC, after maturing his career in Chicago, Ward, 31, spent his teenage years playing every gig he could in his home town of Peoria.

“At that time between Peoria and Chicago there was lots of work for a young player, which was very important,” the saxophonist, explains. Today he’s still kept busy gigging in larger centres, but he doesn’t deny his roots or early associations. On May 16 and 17 at the Jazz Gallery, a septet will premiere his series of composition honoring the 70th birthday of one of his long-time mentors, Preston Jackson. Jackson who is professor emeritus of sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago’s school, as well as a semi-professional guitarist, first played with Ward when the latter was 14. That was three years after Ward had made up his mind to become a musician, despite family pressure to become a doctor. That too was ironic, since both his father and uncle were professional gospel musicians and Ward had been singing gospel music as a three-year-old and studying violin from the age of nine. By the fifth grade he began playing alto saxophone using his father's old Conn. MORE

December 23, 2013

8th Annual Jazz Critics Poll – NPR Music

Ken Waxman
(The New York City Jazz Record, Jazz Word)


1. Convergence Quartet, Slow and Steady (NoBusiness)

2. Andrew Cyrille, Duology (Jazzwerkstatt)

3. Black Host, Life in the Sugar Candle Mines (Northern Spy)

4. Scott Neumann, Blessed (Origin)

5. Michel Edelin, Resurgence (RogueArt)

6. Ab Baars-Meinard Kneer-Bill Elgart, Give No Quarter (Evil Rabbit)

7. Maria Faust, Jazz Catastrophe (Barefoot)

8. Barry Altschul, The 3dom Factor (TUM)

9. Mark Dresser, Nourishments (Clean Feed)

10. Alexey Kruglov-Alexey Lapin-Jaak Sooäär-Oleg Yudanov, Military Space (Leo) MORE

November 3, 2013

Roscoe Mitchell Quartet

Live at A Space 1975
Sackville-Demark SK 2080

Anthony Braxton

Echo Echo Mirror House

Victo cd 125

François Houle/Håvard Wiik


Songlines SGL 1601-2

Evan Tighe


ETC 0001

Something In The Air: Recorded in Canada, Appreciated World-Wide

By Ken Waxman

Without question one of jazz’s most representative records is of a 1954 concert with Bop masters Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach in their only performance together. That the session was recorded in Toronto’s Massey Hall makes it distinctive as well as replaceable. But Jazz at Massey Hall isn’t the only instance of jazz history being made north of the border. Precisely because of gig opportunities for committed international improvisers discs recorded at Canadian gigs or festivals are an important part of the music’s fabric. MORE

June 28, 2013

Roscoe Mitchell

Three Compositions
Rogueart ROG-0043

A rare glimpse of Roscoe Mitchell’s singular skills as an orchestrator and conductor, the fascination of Numbers is how well an 11-piece strings-and-horns ensemble can balance the saxophonist’s notated and improvisational tropes so that the core of the reedman’s creativity is maintained.

Recorded at a Sardinian Jazz festival, the program’s bets are hedged in two different ways. For a start the three compositions were either – in the case of “Quintet #1 for Eleven” and “Quintet #9 for Eleven” – transcribed from charts Mitchell created for his working combo, then rearranged to allow free sections in this score for the larger group, or in the third, based on game theory. Now titled “Cards for Orchestra”, but really “Memories of a Dying Parachutist”, the track is an aleatory invention, where each solo is based on six cards of musical instruction given to each player by the composer. The instructions can be used in any order and played at any tempo. MORE

July 12, 2011

Roscoe Mitchell

Sackville SKCD2-3009)

Julius Hemphill

Roi Boyé & the Gotham Mintrels

Sackville SKCD2-3014/15

Oliver Lake/Julius Hemphill

Buster Bee

Sackville SKCD2-3016

George Lewis

The Solo Trombone Record

Sackville SKCD2-3012

Anthony Davis

Of Blues and Dreams

Sackville SKCD2-3020

Karl Berger & Dave Holland

All Kinds of Time

Sackville SKCD2-3010

Barry Altschul Trio

March 14, 2011

Tell No Lies Claim No Easy Victories

Edited by Phillipp Schmickl
Impro 2000

ECM 40th Anniversary Catalogue

Edited by Kenny Inaoka

Tokyo Kirarasha

As globalization intensifies, American-birthed popular music forms – most especially Jazz and Improvised Music – have evolved far beyond their initial audiences, confirming one of the hoariest of clichés, that music is a universal language. Creative music of many stripes has for many years been often treated more seriously in Europe and Asia than in North America. Consequently to be truly informed about the breadth of musical sounds it helps to understand other languages besides English. That’s the challenge related to the valuable books here. Neither is published primarily in English, but both can serve as resources for followers of Jazz and Improvised Music, no matter their native tongues. MORE

February 12, 2011

Lest We Forget:

Malachi Favors (1927-2004)
By Ken Waxman

Trickster to the end, when bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut died of pancreatic cancer in early 2004, his daughter revealed that he had actually born 10 years earlier than his previously accepted 1937 birth date. In a way that concluding jape was perfectly in character for the versatile bassist who from the mid-1960s until his death was a vital component of the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC). The quintet proved that theatricism in the form of face paint, costumes, so-called “little instruments” and stylistic turns could be the source of profound and searching modern jazz – or if you prefer Great Black Music Ancient to the Future. MORE

February 12, 2011

Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly

Empathetic Parts (with Roscoe Mitchell)
482 Music 482-1074

Exploding Star Orchestra

Stars Have Shapes

Delmark DE 595

By Ken Waxman

One of the standout players among Chicago’s recent burgeoning crop of improvised musicians, alto saxophonist Greg Ward is versatile enough to gig with groups ranging from the chamber-oriented International Contemporary Ensemble to those lead by saxophonist Ernest Dawkins and other members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM). These CDs confirm his skills, although his role is more prominent in drummer Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly then as part of cornetist Rob Mazurek’s 14-piece Exploding Star Orchestra. His contributions to Reed’s Empathetic Parts are even more impressive, since he shares reed duties with saxophonist/flautist Roscoe Mitchell, more than 40 years his senior and an AACM founder. For his part, Mitchell is spontaneous enough to assimilate a performance strategy already tested with the existing five-piece band. MORE

July 18, 2010

Roscoe Mitchell/David Wessel

Rogueart Rog-0023 DVD + CD

Sometime in the 1970s when Chicago-based multi-reedist Roscoe Mitchell was experimenting with the expansion and alteration of acoustic timbres with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, David Wessel, with a doctorate in mathematical psychology was at Paris’ Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique Musique (IRCAM) developing interactive musical software for personal computers. Wessel’s subsequent position as music professor and director of Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at University of California Berkeley has extended to live improvising with players like trombonist George Lewis and saxophonist John Butcher. Wessel and Mitchell have been collaborating since the mid 1980s and this dual CD/DVD captures particularly fertile meetings on audio from Berkeley and on video from Paris. MORE

April 4, 2010

Muhal Richard Abrams/Roscoe Mitchell/Janáček Philharmonic

Mutable 17536-2

Veteran American improvisers, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams and saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell get a rare showcase for their notated works on this notable performance by the Janáček Philharmonic of the Czech Republic, conducted by Petr Kotik. Surprisingly enough for two sound explorers, identified with the avant-garde Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM), both commissions, Abrams’ Mergertone, and Mitchell’s three-part Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City, use the full resources of the orchestra to add lush, impressionistic coloration to the many harmonies and timbres exposed. MORE

August 8, 2009

Evan Parker Transatlantic Art Ensemble

ECM 1873

A rare – and exceptional – foray into partially scored and conducted music for British saxophonist Evan Parker, this eight-part work for a 14-piece ensemble realizes its lofty goals because the composed sections are cleverly counterbalanced by the improvisations.

Boustrophedon – an ancient word describing a method of writing one line from left to right, the subsequent one from right to left and so on – reflects the CD’s parallel methodology as well. While Parker directs a seven-piece group of experienced European improvisers, American saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell does the same with seven, equally proficient, Americans. Much of the boustrophedon movement involves comparable exposure from matched instrumentalists such as the two bassists, two percussionists and two fiddlers. Meanwhile singular soloists like pianist Craig Taborn, cellist Marcio Mattos or flutist Neil Metcalfe cleanly negotiate the fissure between Eurocentric and American-inflected Free Music. Taborn, for instance, adds styled glissandi, tinkling portamento story-telling and formalistic note clusters to “Furrow 2”, but metronomic rhythmic chording to “Furrow 4”. MORE

July 2, 2008

A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music

By George E. Lewis
University of Chicago Press

Home from his studies at Yale University in 1971, trombonist George Lewis was walking to his parents’ home on Chicago’s South Side when he heard unusual sounds coming from a nearby brick building. Peering inside he saw a group practicing what he calls “fascinating” music. Asking if he could attend future rehearsals, Lewis was grudgingly welcomed into what he soon found out was the disciplined but inventive milieu of the Association of the Advancement Musicians (AACM). MORE

October 3, 2007

Roscoe Mitchell’s Chicago Trio

Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo
CODA Issue 335

Vastly dissimilar in attire, the members of Roscoe Mitchell’s Chicago Trio aptly demonstrated to the audience at an almost full auditorium at Buffalo, N.Y.’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery in late April that cohesive improvisation doesn’t demand sartorial consistency.

Suitably dapper in well-cut shirt and trousers, the veteran Art Ensemble of Chicago reedist convoluted harsh split tones, extended circular breathing and touches of foot-tapping melodies into a singular statement on alto and soprano saxophone during two set-long pieces. Alternately whacking or stroking precise tones from his double bass or cello was Harrison Bankhead, resplendent in casual sports shirt and straw boater, who took a position to Mitchell’s right on the well-lit, bare stage. In the middle, using sideswipes and back beats with equal finesse was drummer Vincent Davis, in rustic black turtleneck and jeans. MORE

August 14, 2006


Rogue Art ROG 0003

By Ken Waxman

Forty-plus years on in his recording career, Roscoe Mitchell, arguably the most versatile members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC), continues to surprise.

This CD, featuring the multi-reedman’s most recent working quintet, two of whom – trumpeter Corey Wilkes and bassist Jaribu Shahid – who now fill chairs in the AEC, offers a glimpse at his panoply of talents. With the combo filled out by pianist Craig Taborn and percussionist Tani Tabbal – both of whom recorded as part of Mitchell’s nonet as long ago as 1997 – the five men are able to convey the range and flexibility of a larger band on 14 Mitchell compositions. MORE

April 10, 2006


First Look Chicago Duos
Southport S-SSD 0112

Folklore Imaginario
Leo CD LR 437

Like evaluating a foreign art film and a Hollywood blockbuster in a similar fashion just because both appear on celluloid, these string-and-reed duos are superficially analogous. Yet by the time the imaginary final frames appear you realize that the four musicians involved, despite using the more-or-less-same instrumentation and the same medium, have created two radically different productions. The irony for some is that the Europeans on FOLKLORE IMAGINARIO have come up with the buoyant, in-your-face, aurally Technicolor product, with the equivalent of the spills, chills and thrills of a mainstream film. In contrast, the sounds created by the Americans on FIRST LOOK CHICAGO DUOS are as low-key and meltingly chiaroscuro as the screen images of an independent, usually foreign language production. MORE

November 15, 2005

Guelph Jazz Festival:

Improv On The Move
for CODA

Taking the concept of free-flowing improvisation a step further, one morning at this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF), 15 musicians performed simultaneously in four different whitewashed rooms of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre.

The workshop developed this way, according to Ajay Heble, GJF artistic director, because so many musicians wanted to participate. Some – American alto saxophonist Marshall Allan, British pianist Veryan Weston, Québécois guitarist René Lussier and American banjoist Eugene Chadbourne – rooted on a spot and collaborated with whoever came along. Others moved from place to place and up and down the staircase as they played. MORE

October 10, 2005

The Velvet Lounge: On Late Chicago Jazz

by Gerald Majer
Columbia University Press

By Ken Waxman

A non-faction memoir of tales that may or not have happened, this volume is, to overstate the case a bit, sort of an American À la recherche du temps perdu. Gerald Majer, an English professor at Villa Julie College in Baltimore, utilizes his listening experiences involving major Chicago jazz musicians, as an entrée to his ruminations and meditations on growing up in that Midwestern city.

Don’t be fooled by the photograph of tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson on the cover or the two-page discography at the end of the volume however. Although Majer deals, in greater or lesser degrees, with the sounds of, among others, tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons, Anderson, bandleader Sun Ra, multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Art Ensemble of Chicago members Roscoe Mitchell and Malachi Favors, this is no music encyclopedia or a collection of album and CD reviews. MORE

March 7, 2005


Mean Ameen
Delmark DE-559

Sirius Calling
Pi Records Pi 11

An organization’s influence is reflected in how well it continues to evolve after it becomes old enough to become established. So it is with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music. Heading into its fifth decade, its membership has dispersed away from Chicago -- though the majority of AACMers, young and old, continue to reside in the Windy City -- and some of its more prominent members are starting to die. MORE

August 9, 2004


Solo [3]
Mutable Music 17515

One of the first reedists to perform and record solo, Roscoe Mitchell has upped the ante even higher with this magnum opus. Almost 40 year after the Art Ensemble of Chicago founder and Association for the Advancement of Creative Music leader pioneer waxed a solo saxophone LP, he’s confident enough of his material to turn out this three-CD set. Luckily each disc offers something different.

CD2, Solar Flares for Alto Saxophone, showcases manipulations of his main axe, with the output more concerned with legato story telling than the sort of multiphonic techniques most soloists exploit. Almost self-explanatory, The Percussion Cage and Music on the Go, CD3, features a few soprano saxophone explorations as well as Mitchell exhibiting his prowess banging, hitting and thumping the hundreds of little instruments he has gathered into a four-sided Rube Goldberg-style contraption he dubs a percussion cage. Most unusual is CD1, Tech Ritter and the Megabytes, where the reedist who has been involved in New music and electronics over the years, double and triple tracks his sax work to create interlocking reed bands. MORE

March 8, 2004


Tribute to Lester
ECM 1808

The Meeting
PI Recordings PI07

Could the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC) continue performing after the November 1999 death of Lester Bowie following 30 years of close collaboration? Sure, each members had his own side projects over the years and the band had survived the defection of reedman Joseph Jarman in 1993, but going on without the flamboyant presence of the lab-coat wearing trumpeter appeared impossible.

As Bowie once famously replied to another question: “Well, I guess it all depends on what you know,” and chuckled evilly. Not only did the three remaining members regroup to turn out TRIBUTE TO LESTER, but then the unexpected happened. Jarman brought his collection of reeds to mesh with the sounds from fellow reedist Roscoe Mitchell, plus bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut and percussionist Famoudou Don Moye on THE MEETING, although the title may suggest a non-permanent hook-up. MORE

October 7, 2002


Sunshine & An Even Break (never give a sucker)
Fuel 2000 Records 302 061 215 2

Potentially the time when Energy music of both the American and European varieties reached the zenith of acceptance, 1969 was also unique because it suddenly seemed that the very fabric of society was ripping apart.

Riots were commonplace on both continents. Radicalized students were staging sometimes-violent demonstrations to demand more liberalized education processes and to protest against local repression and the war in Viet Nam. Fringe groups had turned to kidnapping, bomb throwing and arson in Europe, while in the U.S., the Black Power Movement had moved into its short-lived, so-called revolutionary phrase. MORE

September 9, 2002


Song for My Sister
PI Recordings 103

Avant garde jazz fans who remember the 1960s and 1970s have the tendency to come on like moldy figs when they compare the activities of many highly celebrated younger players with the accomplishments of their elders.

Case in point is this CD. For while a few youngsters have been over-praised for merely mastering the intricacies of a particular jazz style -- be it hard bop, modal or even a hip hop take on the New Thing -- reedist Roscoe Mitchell, 62, showcases a lot more.

Mitchell, who plays soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, flute, bass recorder, great bass recorder and percussion on this disc, has also written a set of unmistakably modern tunes that touch on playful R&B, precise swing, Third World anthems, jagged contemporary composition and even Early music. Assisted by eight young and veteran improvisers -- and four more for the “classical” piece -- Mitchell easily slides from one stance and style to another without ever losing his identity or resorting to tonal impersonation. MORE