Friday, August 03, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Dig that Roscoe Mitchell

Matthew Shipp Duo with Roscoe Mitchell: 2-Z. 1996. 2.13.61 Records: thi21312.2.

Matthew Shipp: piano
Roscoe Mitchell: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone

At the end of the track listing information - a simple list of 11 movements titled 2-Z-1 all the way to 2-Z-11 - one finds a parenthetical descriptor: (The Physics of Angels). With this suggestion in mind I find my ears focused upon the variation in density of these eleven improvised duos for piano and saxophone. After opening with some incredibly thick textures in the first movement things begin to shift toward an equal extremity of sparseness. And this is the most striking thing about 2-Z as a composition and performance. Matthew Shipp's piano playing is focused, intense and energetic as he covers the enormous range between extremes. Mitchell's contribution is fantastic, often soaring well beyond the reach of the accompanying piano part. In the end, these collaborators sculpt a sound like angels dancing on the head of a pin.

Erik Friedlander: Maldoror. 2002. Brassland: HWY-005.

Erik Friedlander: cello

The point of interaction between poetry and music takes a turn toward abstraction as Erik Friedlander applies intuition and raw cello improvisation talent toward the interpretation of the words of Comte de Lautreamont as translated by Alexis Lykiard. One does not hear the literal in Friedlander's playing, but the spirit of these dark, surreal poems do emerge in this substantial favorite of the HurdAudio rotation. While at times lyrical, the economy of gestures and brevity of expression matches the poetic roots without becoming song.

Roscoe Mitchell Sextet: Sound. 1966. Delmark Records: DE-408.

Roscoe Mitchell: alto saxophone, clarinet, recorder
Lester Bowie: trumpet, flugelhorn, harmonica
Lester Lashley: trombone, cello
Maurice McIntyre: tenor saxophone
Malachi Favors: bass
Alvin Fielder: drums

For those of us in awe of the music of Chicago's AACM, and Roscoe Mitchell in particular, this recording is one of the reasons why. As the first recorded offering from the AACM and the debut release from Mitchell as band leader this is an indispensable document of improvisational beauty setting the tone for so much creative music that would follow in its wake. "The Little Suite" shows flashes of humor (along with Lester Bowie on harmonica, he is still sorely missed) while the two versions of "Sound" on this release present two large-scale canvases tastefully covered with the collaborative raw material of sound to create some vibrant, yet spare textures.

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