Roscoe Mitchell: soprano, alto, tenor & bass saxophones, flute, piccolo, percussion | Corey Wilkes: trumpet, flugelhorn, small percussion | Craig Taborn: piano | Jaribu Shahid: double bass, electric bass, small percussion | Tani Tabbal: drum set, percussion
Recorded January 4th to 6th 2005 by Steve Gotcher & Buzz Kemper at Audio for the Arts (Madison, Wi, USA). Mixing: Steve Gotcher & Buzz Kemper. Mastering: Tom Blain. Liner notes: Steve Dalachinsky and Alexandre Pierrepont. Photographs: Joseph Blough. Producer: Michel Dorbon
Tracklist: 1. Quintet One (3.24) 2. For Cynthia (5.23) 3. Quintet Nine (5.21) 4. For Now (3.58) 5. Horner Mac (1.34) 6. Rhine Ridge (1.24) 7. Page Two A (6.19) 8. March 2004 (3.44) 9. In Six (4.44) 10. Turn (3.39) 11. Take One (8.42) 12. Page One (3.47) 13. That’s Finished (3.58) 14. After (7.10)
All compositions by Roscoe Mitchell
It’s been many years since the multi-facetted art of Roscoe Mitchell overwhelm us
whether with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, or his Note Factory, or his solo performances or so many projects with so many giants. However, we know that Roscoe Mitchell still has much to say. Incredible as it may seems, this here quintet generously offers yet another dimension of his music. The first striking thing in “Turn” is how Mitchell perfectly controls such an elaborate speech while, rich as may be the written parts, they never hamper the freedom to ad lib. And that’s why each new listening at “Turn”, each of Turn’s turns (and there are many), bring new emotions and wonderful surprises. Roscoe Mitchell unquestionably is the architect of this refined musical building called “Turn”; however, without such great musicians as Corey Wilkes, Craig Taborn, Jaribu Shahid and Tani Tabal, the other members of the quintet, we wouldn’t have entered it so easily. For all these reasons, we dare say “Turn” is a masterpiece. And we do mean masterpiece!
Tani Tabal, Jaribu Shahid, Craig Taborn, Corey Wilkes, Roscoe Mitchell (from left to right) Photo by Joseph Blough
The best American jazz artists have often had to look overseas for support.
European labels have long proved to be reliable homes for adventurous music. From the looks of its first three releases, the French label Rogue Art might become another safe house. The most exciting of the label’s inaugural issues is a new title from Art Ensemble of Chicago founder Roscoe Mitchell. In itself that is always a notable event, but this new group (with Mitchell’s longtime rhythm section Jaribu Shahid and Tani Tabal on bass and drums along with new Art Ensemble trumpeter Corey Wilkes and the excellent young pianist Craig Taborn) stands among his greatest bands. They have all the role and bluster of Mitchell’s Note Factory, but stripped down to an economic quintet. Across 14 quick tracks (five break the five-minute mark), they cover much of Mitchell’s best improv settings, from jazz heads to percussion structures to horn drives and funky rhythms. The most striking thing here – as with recent Art Ensemble performances – is hearing Mitchell share the front line with a trumpeter so ready to deliver. The young man’s gig filling Lester Bowie’s shoes was a shock and in no way does he try to emulate the departed master, but he is clearly confident in the partnership. As a whole, the group is comfortable together, ready to let the compositions stand and while Shahid and Tabal haven’t been the most exciting parts of Mitchell’s groups, here they sound better than ever. — Kurt Gottschalk
Tani Tabal, Corey Wilkes, Jaribu Shahid, Roscoe Mitchell, Craig Taborn (from left to right) | Photo by Joseph Blough
Even with four decades of involvement with creative improvised music
multi-instrumentalist and co-founder of the AACM Roscoe Mitchell forges onward, ever evolving and still vital. Despite having lost key compatriots from his seminal Vietnam-era revolution in sound with the passing of Lester Bowie and Malachi Favors Maghostut, Mitchell remains undaunted. He continues to maintain not only the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and his nonet, a.k.a. the Note Factory, but also his quintet, which is featured here.
With a mix of new faces and old, Mitchell’s quintet is a versatile and adept ensemble capable of handling anything the master throws its way. The youngest member is trumpeter Corey Wilkes, who now fills Lester Bowie’s chair in the Art Ensemble of Chicago. These are big shoes to fill and Wilkes handles himself admirably. No mere imitator, Wilkes has found his own sound within the post-AACM environment and is a suitable foil for Mitchell, who sounds as youthful and exuberant here as he has in years. Mitchell’s outré playing is more cerebral now than it was back in his revolutionary days, when the acrid tone of his alto sounded like it could peel paint, but his conception hasn’t changed. Wilkes’ brash and brassy torrents on the open horn alternate with his restrained, Harmon-muted statements, perfectly complementing the leader’s acerbic alto and dusky flute work, much as Bowie did in the past.
The rhythm section consists of Mitchell’s usual suspects, culled from the Note Factory: drummer Tani Tabbal, bassist Jaribu Shahid, and pianist Craig Taborn. Equally comfortable running down angular bop lines or simply abandoning rhythmic meter altogether, this trio understands Mitchell’s work better than anyone. All three have played with Mitchell for well over a decade and are fully vested in Mitchell’s creative ideology.
Mitchell is egalitarian almost to a fault, as the versatility on display here is somewhat staggering. The gritty electric bass led funk of “Rhine Ridge” sits side by side with the off-kilter Braxton-esque bass saxophone driven “March 2004”. Sandwiched between them is the ethereal, atmospheric “Page Two A” with bells, chimes, marimba, and mellifluous soprano all floating over a rubato pulse. “Quintet One”, “Quintet Nine”, and “Horner Mac” all feature snappy, crackling free-bop, making this session slightly more accessible than some of Mitchell’s previous efforts.
Mitchell demonstrates more than eclectic diversity in handling multiple styles of music by contributing a tune of direct lyricism so strong that the entire album is worth obtaining if only for this piece alone. “In Six” is quite possibly one of the most melodically assured pieces Mitchell has ever written. With its classical motif and delicate flute arpeggios, it is impeccably beautiful in its melodic simplicity. Wilkes’ plangent muted trumpet supports Mitchell’s stately variations while the rhythm section casually lulls the group forward with a languorous waltz.
Mitchell allows plenty of solo room for his band, despite the often short running time of the pieces. If there is any complaint to be had with the record it is that most of the tunes hover around three or four minutes apiece with two clocking in at just over a minute. For example, “Horner Mac”, with its unhinged free-bop attack, ends practically before it begins, just gaining momentum as it winds down. In contrast, a piece like “Take One”, a nine-minute circular breathing marathon of volcanic free jazz intensity, or the seven-minute closer, the melancholy free-form ballad “After”, more than make up for the miniatures that leave one desiring more.
Mitchell has traveled this well-worn path before, but with a discography constantly in flux, it’s nice to have an in-print album that captures the master in a variety of settings. Not without its flaws, but still a phenomenal introduction for novices and a highly recommended addition for admirers as well, Turn is one of Mitchell’s best albums to come along in years. — Troy Collins
CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)