Reviews that mention Matt Mitchell

September 27, 2021

Anna Webber

Pi Recordings 89

Designed to show off tenor saxophonist/flutist Anna Webber’s skills as composer and player are the idioms developed on each disc of this two-CD set. Without knowing their genesis in extended woodwind techniques, the five idioms expressed can be appreciated as appropriately moving Jazz and improvised music. That’s partially a testament to what the British Colombia-born Brooklyn-based musician’s conceptions and also because the interpretations involve some of the east coast’s most accomplished players. MORE

March 28, 2021

Dan Weiss Starebaby

Natural Selection
Pi Recordings P 186

Junk Magic

Compass Confusion

Pyroclastic Records PR 12

Having established himself as a valuable collaborator with everyone from Vijay Iyer to Evan Parker in the improvised community hasn’t stopped keyboardist Craig Taborn from indulging his love for more beats-oriented music. At the same time he hasn’t abandoned his synergetic ideals with both these high energy discs more concerned with group propulsion than gaudy soloing. Although each CD exists in a post-Fusion universe, the distances between them are major. MORE

November 1, 2020

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil

The Fantastic Mrs. 10
Intakt CD 340

Tim Berne/Nasheet Waits

The Coandă

Relative Pitch RPR 1103

Far along enough in his career that he doesn’t have to prove anything, two recent CDs by alto saxophonist Tim Berne show that he hasn’t lost his mojo when it comes to composing or playing. A bulletin from his Snakeoil quintet, The Fantastic Mrs. 10 consists of six new Berne compositions and a brief one by his mentor Julius Hemphill. Shared with drummer Nasheet Waits, The Coandă is a live out-and-out blowing session of mutual exploration by two players who have cultivated the evolving codes of Jazz improvisation. MORE

April 13, 2020

Gordon Grdina

Nomad Trio
Skirl Records 044

Radical Empathy Trio

Reality and Other Imaginary Places

ESP 5035

Joe Morris/Evan Parker

The Village

Fundacja Słucha FSR 13/2019



BMC CD 257

Marcelo de Reis/Valentin Ceccaldi/Marco Franco/Luis Vincente


MultiKulti Project MPSMT 016

Something in the Air: Forging a Guitar Identity in Improvised Music

November 2, 2019

Jon Irabagon

Invisible Horizon
Irabbagast Records 014/015

Traditional album nomenclature would probably have titled this two-CD sets, The Two sides of Jon Irabagon, But even though the discs are more-or-less split between demonstrations of his composing and playing skill, the American saxophonist’s mature concepts are more open and refined than what would usually be defined by those hoary designations.

For a start while Irabagon long-ago proved his ability to easily fit into contemporary modern situations with ensembles such as Mostly Other People Do the Killing and Dave Douglas’ band, both discs are divorced from that particular category. The Dark Horizon CD for instance is an eight track reed exploration, dedicated to singular, jagged overblowing and related extended techniques with a rare saxophone. Using a recording space with a unique 13-second delay, Irabagon ups the originality factor here by improvising ideas using the on the spottily manufactured and preserved mezzo soprano saxophone. Two tracks which open and close Invisible Guests, the other CD, deviate only slightly from this concept. Although playing a conventional sopranino, rather than the mezzo soprano, these vignettes feature the saxophonist exploring the instrument’s extended limits, playing with a mouthpiece on one track and without one on the other. Backing comes from the Mivos Quartet of Olivia de Prato and Lauren Cauley Kala’s violins, Victor Lowrie Tafoya’s viola and Mariel Roberts’ cello. MORE

October 23, 2019

Matt Mitchell

Phalanx Ambassadors
Pi Records Pi 81

One of the go-to keyboardists on the present New York scene, Matt Mitchell has been a sought-after associate for everyone from Tim Berne to Dan Weiss. Re-convening his own group for Phalanx Ambassadors, Mitchell creates a layered program of themes and overtones that ironically in instrumentation updates the line-up of the quintets pianist George Shearing led from the late 1940s to the 1970s.

It’s not very likely any fan of the Shearing Quintet’s pop-Jazz approach could confuse this group of contemporary improvisers with that group’s members, and it’s as feasible that none of Mitchell’s crew is cognizant of the link, even though such major stylists as Gary Burton and Joe Pass were in the Shearing quintet over the years. In contrast to Shearing’s easy listening three- minute tracks, as well, Mitchell’s original compositions range from less than two minutes in length to almost 16. Throughout the seven tracks, textural contrasts and extensions come from Miles Okazaki’s guitars: Patricia Brennan’s vibraphone and marimba, Kim Cass’ bass and electric bass and Kate Gentile’s drums and percussion as well as Mitchell keyboards and acoustic piano. MORE

June 17, 2019

Anna Webber

Pi Recordings P179

By Ken Waxman

Reaching an elevated trajectory following her last CD, B.C.-born, New York-based tenor saxophone/flutist Anna Webber aided by a seasoned septet, re-conceptualizes into new compositions impressions of 20th Century composers’ percussion works.

Percussiveness not percussion is the major focus, even though her studio reassembling of Ches Smith’s echoing tympani on the Felmanesque “King of Denmark II” are suitably staggering. Mostly though Smith sticks to drums and vibraphone to provide the precise clamor and ringing clatter that swing alongside Jacob Garchik’s emotional trombone flow; place-marking stops or sweeping glissandi from Christopher Hoffman’s cello and Chris Tordini’ bass; pulsing chromatics from pianist Matt Mitchell; and stylistic chirps or snarls from Webber and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Jeremy Viner. MORE

April 7, 2019

Quinsin Nachoff's Flux

Path of Totality
Whirlwind WR 4733

By Ken Waxman

Partially recorded when he was artist in residence at Calgary’s National Centre, using the studio’s keyboards and synthesizers, Torontonian turned New Yorker Quinsin Nachoff takes full advantage of Canada’s artistic resources to produce this notable two-CD set, Each of the soprano and tenor saxophonist’s six compositions cannily bolsters the intense textures created by his group Flux, which also features alto and C melody saxophonist David Binney, keyboardist and synthesizer player Matt Mitchell and percussionists Kenny Wollesen and Nate Wood plus supplementary sound contributions. MORE

February 11, 2019

Jonathan Finlayson

3 Times Round
Pi Recordings 77

Although closely identified with Steve Coleman’s Five Elements, band with which he has been playing for 18 years, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson’s new set of seven originals seems to more accurately reflect the influence of another band leader with whom he has also played. In fact despite lacking tuba, cello and two drummers, this sextet approximates the sound of Henry Threadgill’s Sextett from the early 1980s.

Not that there’s any hint of copying. But considering that besides the Oakland, Calif.-born trumpeter, drummer Craig Weinrib also put in time with Threadgill, compositional osmosis from the AACM saxophonist may just have been in the air. Others players on the date are all young-veteran pacesetters of the New York scene: alto saxophonist Steve Lehman and tenor saxophonist Brian Settles plus pianist Matt Mitchell and bassist John Hébert. Overall though, it’s only “Refined Strut” and the preceding, most dramatic “The Moon is New” which appear most overtly Threadgillian. Trenchant and balladic, the first tells its story as it evolves from hard comping from Mitchell and airy flutter tonguing from the trumpeter that is cushioned by a saxophone choir. Divergently, the multi-sectional “Moon is New” reaches its zenith with an exchange among open-horn brassiness from Finlayson, straight-ahead tenor sax vibrations and swirling piano chords, following percussive bowed bass and bass clef keyboard elaboration and culminating in overlapping piano and bass string chording which drone to the ending. MORE

March 18, 2018

Matt Mitchell

A Pouting Grimace
Pi Recordings 71

Onze Heures Onze Orchestra

Vol 1

Onzeheurs Onze ONZ020

Having a singular, original vision is often cited as the best way to create outstanding music, more so when, as on these sessions here, concepts can be communicated to a large ensemble. Yet individualism doesn’t necessarily edge out a collegial approach. New York-based keyboardist Matt Mitchell for instance obviously aimed to create an original take on contemporary sounds that mixed notated, improvisational and electronic tropes, and he rounded up a dozen of the city’s most accomplished players to interpret his 10 compositions. Yet all too often on A Pouting Grimace, the composer and his associates appear to be leaping from one idea to another, exposing a variety of concepts, but with no logical continuum that draws together the detonating themes. MORE

March 8, 2018

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble

All Can Work
New Amsterdam NWAM094

By Ken Waxman

Drummer John Hollenbeck convened 20 of New York’s most accomplished improvisers to interpret his newest compositions and arrangements. Concerned mostly with the harmonic relationship among instrumental sections and textures which blend into pastel billows, Hollenbeck’s conception is horizontal and flowing with limits on solos. It’s characterized by the kiss, composed for a Romeo and Juliet project, which embeds pianist Mat Mitchell’s dynamic theme elaborations within a buoyant, sprightly narrative. That said, the introductory Lud is built around multiple idiophone vibrations cushioned by horn breaths and which quickly draws you into Hollenbeck’s multiple creations. The concluding “The Model”, lifted from the repertory of German electronica band Kraftwerk is light, bracing and wraps up the session with hints of a spirited “I Love Paris”-like vamp. MORE

November 16, 2017

Mario Pavone Dialect Trio

Playscape Recordings PSR #060316

Mario Pavone


Clean Feed CF 423 CD

Moving into his eighth decade, bassist Mario Pavone still maintains the organizational and compositional smarts that have characterized his career as a musical partner with players as different as reedists Anthony Braxton and Thomas Chapin as well as pianist Paul Bley and guitarist Michael Musillami. Like writers such as Vladimir Nabokov and John O’Hara, whose later fiction was at least as eminent as their work as younger scribblers, one could say Pavone has improved with age. MORE

May 8, 2017

Artist Feature

Dan Weiss
By Ken Waxman

Music transcends it all,” boldly states drummer Dan Weiss. “I play with musicians from the States, Europe, India, etc. I’ll play with musicians from Mars if we’re on the same page. I don’t think about where people are from. It’s only about the music for me, nothing else. Not color, not background, not anything.” Although there are no reports of collaborations with space aliens from the Red Planet or elsewhere in the list of musicians Weiss will be playing with during his six day residency at The Stone early this month, a cross section of terrestrial artists with whom he works frequently are featured, including saxophonists David Binney, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Tim Berne and Ellery Eskelin, pianists Jacob Sacks, Craig Taborn and Matt Mitchell plus bassists Mike Formanek and Trevor Dunn. Missing are some other Weiss stateside contacts as well as his regular European partners. The list is a testament to his versatility. MORE

December 11, 2016

Anna Weber’s Simple Trio

Skirl Records 033


Advances and Delays


Franklin Kiermyer

Closer to the Sun

Mobility Music MMII016


Shipwreck 4

NoBusiness Records NBCD 67

Michael Vlatkovich

Myrnofant’s Kiss

pfMentum CD 095

Something In The Air: Catching up with Canadian Expats

By Ken Waxman

Q: What’s the best way to become famous in Canada? A: Leave the country. Unfortunately that hoary jape still has currency in 2016, especially if you want to be a renowned actor. Music is less aggressive and plenty of first-class musicians make their home in the dominion; some foreigners even relocate here. Still for many improvisers concerns, both personal and professional, cause them to abandon their native land. Expatriation often means interaction with a wider crew of players than if they had stayed put and these recent discs capture the results of these challenges. MORE

November 11, 2016

Quinsin Nachoff

Mythology Records MR0012

By Ken Waxman

Like a Para-Olympian who triumphs in a contest despite lacking something usually deemed fundamental, tenor saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff has composed a set of seven well-balanced creations with a quartet missing one jazz necessity: a double bass. But so skillfully are the tunes affiliated and so sophisticated are his musical associates that it’s almost unnoticed.

A former Torontonian, now based in New York, Nachoff, who also composes for big bands and string ensembles in North America and Australia, makes sure Flux’s flow is maintained by relying on three of New York’s nonpareil improvisers: alto saxophonist David Binney; Kenny Wollesen on drums and, percussion; and Matt Mitchell who stretches his hands over piano, Fender Rhodes, organ, Wurlitzer and Moog synthesizer, sometimes synchronously. Like a generic drug compared to an original, Mitchell’s bottom notes and Wollesen’s faultless beat remove the need for a bassist. More crucially through the drummer’s animated clatter or hard backbeat plus Mitchell’s harmonic judgment – his crinkly, slurry electric keyboard fills are as arresting as his cultivated romanticism on acoustic piano – fit perfectly jigsaw puzzle piece-like depending on the circumstances. On its own, Binney’s sculpted-out-of-stone tone can be heard at its flinty best on a tune such as “Astral Echo Poem”. Elsewhere he and Nachoff chew up or caress phrases like conjoined twins. Alternately stinging or smooth, the tenor saxophonist’s can angle out weighty Coleman Hawkins-like story telling on “Mind’s Ear 1” then turn around to spit out triplet snorts on “Mind’s Ear 2” backed with thick piano extensions. MORE

June 1, 2016

Mario Pavone

Blue Dialect
Clean Feed CF 319 CD

By Ken Waxman

Prose masters such as Ernest Hemingway always wrote with an economy of style, without a word out of place. In a musical context the concept can be applied to the playing and composing of bassist Mario Pavone. That’s because nine originals which make up Blue Dialect mostly feature his trio members, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. When Pavone steps forward for a brief solo or to add additional though pinpointed phrasing or motion to a line, he strengthens the performance without bring attention to himself. MORE

February 16, 2016

Matt Mitchell

Vista Accumulation
Pi Recordings Pi 62

After establishing himself in the bands of Tim Berne and John Hollenbeck among others plus releasing a duo disc with percussionist Ches Smith, pianist Matt Mitchell bolsters the scope of his creativity with this two-CD set of eight interlocking compositions. Lengthy explorations, the Mitchell pieces give ample space to his piano playing the bass work of Chris Tordini plus expanded commentary from drummer Dan Weiss and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed, all of whom he has worked extensively with in the past. MORE

June 11, 2015

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil

You’ve Been Watching Me
ECM 2443

By Ken Waxman

Augmenting the already well-balanced sound of his Snakeoil quartet, alto saxophonist Tim Berne introduces guitarist Ryan Ferreira’s chord-shredding distortions to the seven Berne originals here, creating a fuller but no less memorable program than the quartet offered at April’s SRO appearance in Toronto. Added to the alternately luminously fluidity or strained grunting from Oscar Noriega’s clarinet or bass clarinet; Matt Mitchell’s poised linear piano style; plus discriminating accents from Ches Smith’s drums, vibes, tympani and percussion; the re-imagined ensemble easily negotiates the compositions’ intricacies. MORE

May 12, 2015

Rudresh Mahanthappa

Bird Calls
ACT 9581-2

Neelamjit Dhillon Quartet

Komagata Maru

No Label No #

Rez Abbasi Acoutic Quartet

Intents and Purposes

Enja Records ENJ-952-2

Louis Moholo-Moholo Unit

For The Blue Notes

Ogun Records OGCD 042

Something In The Air: Varying Definitions of Ethnic-oriented Improvised Music

By Ken Waxman

When it comes to welcoming immigrants to North America, Canada and the United States have long had different policies. To Americans the ideal is the melting pot with all foreigners persuaded to become true-blue Yanks. Modern Canada, once it shook off fealty to Britain, has long promoted multi-culturalism, where immigrants become Canadians without giving up their homeland identity. Generalities should be avoided, but it’s informative to see these concepts played out in improvised music. Thus Neelamjit Dhillon, born in Vancouver of Sikh background, has created a notable CD based on the infamous 1914 incident when 376 mostly Sikh immigrants were refused entry to Canada. To do so he mixes traditional Indian instruments with Western ones. In contrast American performers, who are his contemporaries, and with similar immigrant roots, have recorded sessions exclusively linked to the un-hyphenated jazz continuum. MORE

April 12, 2015

Tineke Postma

Sonic Halo
Challenge Records CR 73370

Ben Goldberg

Orphic Machine

BAG Productions BAG 007

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York


Libra Records 215-036

Ananda Gari


Auand Records AU 9041

SITA: Cutting-Edge Free Improvisation at The Music Gallery

By Ken Waxman

Major improvisers from elsewhere frequently play Toronto, but not as often do they appear with an all-star line-up. That’s what happens on April 29 when alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s Snakeoil is in concert at The Music Gallery. Berne, who has been on the cutting edge of advanced jazz for 30-odd years, arrives with three younger players who have distinguished themselves on the New York scene: fellow reedist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Ches Smith. This being the 21th Century and past the age of consistently working groups, each – including Berne – is involved in many other projects. MORE

December 6, 2014

Anna Webber

Skirl Records 027


Jagged Spheres

No label No #

By Ken Waxman

A Brooklyn resident since 2008, Kelowna B.C.-native Anna Webber’s work has followed two trajectories aptly defined on these releases. A tenor saxophonist/flutist who studied music in Montreal, NYC and Berlin, she has an urban side – reflected in the cooperative Jagged Spheres trio’s emphasis on seamlessly combining composition and improvisation in its work – plus a rustic one which permeates her compositions on Simple. That CD’s pieces were all written during a Webber sojourn on Bowen Island, near Vancouver. MORE

October 11, 2014

Artist Feature

Ches Smith
By Ken Waxman

To exaggerate a bit, it appears that there was never a time in his life that Ches Smith wasn’t playing drums. Even today at 40, the Brooklyn-based percussionist seems to rarely move from behind his kit. Besides leading his own groups, which include the These Arches quintet, a couple of trios and his Good for Cows duo with bassist Devin Hoff, Smith is kept busy as a sideman in bands led by among others Tim Berne, Marc Ribot and Mary Halvorson, plus indie-rock stalwarts such as Xiu Xiu and Secret Chiefs 3. There’s also his Congs for Brums solo percussion project; and he can sometime be found in NYC’s outskirts participating in extended vodou drum ceremonies. MORE

July 11, 2014

Artist Feature

Matt Mitchell
By Ken Waxman

After a year’s unhappy experience in the late ‘90s trying to establish himself in NYC, pianist Matt Mitchell, 38, escaped, as he terms it, to his hometown of Philadelphia and got a day job at the University of the Arts’ library. “I swore I'd never again play one music gig I didn’t want to play, and I haven’t.”

He’s certainly lived up to that pledge. Mitchell, who ultimately quit the library job in 2009, is still in Philly. But he now divides his time working in such high-profile ensembles as Dave Douglas’ Quintet, Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Project, Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, Darius Jones’ Quartet, John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, Rez Abbasi's Invocation, plus his own band with bassist Chris Tordini, drummer Dan Weiss and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed. Mitchell has also been widely praised for Fiction, his Pi Recordings debut, which is a series of duets with Snakeoil drummer Ches Smith. MORE

January 8, 2014

Matt Mitchell

Pi Recordings PI50

By Ken Waxman

Having made his name as a commanding and sympathetic sideman with the bands of Tim Berne and Dave Douglas among others, pianist Matt Mitchell first solo disc is as impudent as it is dazzling. Taking as a base 15 so-called études he composed as practice pieces, he and percussionist Ches Smith combine to transform the musical puzzles into full-fledged sonic statements. Complex yet satisfying, the pianist’s hyper-kinetic keyboard command faces appropriate rhythmic challenges from Smith’s punkish beat-making. MORE

December 8, 2013

Matt Mitchell

Pi Recordings PI50

Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton

Live at Maya Recordings Festival

NoBusiness NBCD 55



Unsounds 35u

Michel Doneda/Joris Rühl


Umlaut Records umfrcd 07

Lori Freedman & John Heward

On No On

Mode Avant 16

Kidd Jordan & Hamid Drake

A Night in November Live in New Orleans

Valid Records VR-1015

Paul Bley Trio

August 1, 2012

Tim Berne

ECM 2234

Bruno Chevillon/Tim Berne

Old and Unwise

Clean Feed CF 221 CD

After keeping a low profile of late, working mostly as sax-for hire in co-op bands, New York alto saxophonist Tim Berne asserts himself more conspicuously with these revealing projects. Old and Unwise is a set of unvarnished improvisations between Berne and French bassist Bruno Chevillon. Recorded seven months later, and his first studio date in eight years, Snakeoil introduces a new Berne combo, which tellingly doesn’t include a bass player. Instead Berne’s alto forays are harmonized with Oscar Noriega’s clarinet and bass clarinet, Matt Mitchell’s piano and Ches Smith’s drums. MORE