ROSCOE MITCHELL QUINTET

Turn
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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.

It’s a good thing that each one plays more than one instrument and is comfortable in many styles. For the twists and turns on TURN involve sounds that vary from those that nearly replicate hard South Side blues and Free-Form Energy Music to near-Baroque-style recitals and Freebop rambles. Plus there a couple of tracks where everyone seems to have climbed inside Mitchell’s massive percussion cage and rhythmically whales away on claxons, wood blocks, cymbals, marimbas, maracas, claves, rattles, and a ringing school bell.

Holding sway over all this is Mitchell, whose musical personality also changes depending on the horn he’s holding. “Take One” for instance, features his alto playing, which during the course of the nearly nine-minute piece, includes smudgy split tone pitch vibrations, snorts and honks and slurry multiphonics. For his part Wilkes contributes multi-directional brassy triplets, flashy chromatic trills and whinny plunger work, while the soloists balance on the polyrhythmic beat from the rhythm section.

“Quintet Nine”, with Mitchell on flute, is a sophisticated bop line that floats on Shahid’s tough walking bass and low-pitched sawing as well as Tabbal’s pinpointed cymbal splashes. “March 2004”, on the other hand is exactly what it says it is, with Mitchell on bass sax in unison with trumpet peeps and the proper ambulatory beat from Tabbal. Eventually Wilkes adds some jazz funk with a slurry rubato solo while the saxophonist comments contrapuntally.

“Page Two A” could be New music, with a vibrated theme conveyed with ghostly piano clusters and the occasional cymbal ping, until two-thirds of the way through it downshifts into solid reed expansion, bowed legato bass and Tabbal’s gentling marimba-like swats. This composition and the rococo “In Six” could be played for non-jazzers without ruffling their sensibilities. Of course they may miss the toughness hiding beneath the simple syncopation advanced by Taborn’s close voicing and the blend of flute and muted trumpet.

More than the front line gets to express itself here as well. Shahid’s bowed bass is a foil for Mitchell’s tenor saxophone on one number, and his electric axe adds the proper pulse to another. Tabbal’s back beat propels that finger-snapper as do wah-wah trumpet lines and honking sax figures.

TURN confirms that there’s no let up in Mitchell’s creativity, whether it’s as part of the AEC or on his own.

Track Listing: 1. Quintet One 2. For Cynthia 3. Quintet Nine 4. For Now 5. Horner Mac 6. Rhine Ridge 7. Page Two A 8. March 2004 9. In Six 10. Turn 11. Take One 12.Page One 13. That’s Finished 14. After

Personnel: Corey Wilkes (trumpet, flugelhorn and small percussion); Roscoe Mitchell (soprano, alto, tenor and bass saxophones, flute, piccolo and percussion); Craig Taborn (piano); Jaribu Shahid (bass, electric bass and small percussion); Tani Tabbal (drums and percussion)