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.

While the concluding “Homecoming” is a classic duet between trombone and soprano saxophone, “Qunata”, the debut track, has Mitchell’s sopranino saxophone carving out a place for its shrill peeps and gaunt trills from the concentrated synthesized samples and inflated granular warbles produced by Lewis’ laptop. Working up to a textural program that could be the soundtrack for a film on cosmic exploration, the track ends with a programmed voice repeating “unable to continue”. That sly electro-acoustic joke doesn’t characterize a disc that auspiciously offers profound instances of how man and machine can cooperate musically.

-for The Whole Note September 2019