Roscoe Mitchell: alto and soprano saxophones | David Wessel: electronics
CONTACT is made of a DVD filmed during the October 20th 2004 concert at IRCAM (Paris, France) and of a CD recorded in Berkeley (California, USA) on October 13th and 14th 2002. Liner notes: David Wessel, Michel Dorbon. Producer: Michel Dorbon
Tracklist: DVD Contact: Sound & Music (35:40)
Tracklist: CD 1. For Oliver Johnson, part 1 (13:22) 2. For Oliver Johnson, part 2 (16:39) 3. Orange Sky (4:00) 4. Moving (7:06) 5. Schreeds (17:56) 6. Jakarta (7:48) 7. The Call (5:50)
David Wessel, despite whatever label on can attach to his music
is very familiar with the musical object commonly called jazz (never mind the name we give to this music which is both one and multiple, pushing the limits of its frontiers, the importance being that it exists, whatever the label). He has also played with George Lewis, Steve Lacy to name but a few; several times during later meetings, David told me of his admiration for the drummer Oliver Johnson, found dead in tragic circumstances one morning in March 2002 in the Halles square in the heart of Paris…
Roscoe Mitchell Mitchell, from the Art Ensemble of Chicago to his performances with Thomas Buckner, to his Note Factory and numerous other groups, is not a stranger to adventure as long as it serves the cause of music…
This duo is an evidence in itself. When we know that their first musical encounter dates from the 80’s (as witness a first concert in 1986 at IRCAM), we can only be surprised that their musi has not been diffused more widely…
Roscoe Mitchell and David Wessel are of those, each in his own right, who push musical expression to its furthest limits. No cold rigour her, no search of form for form’s sake; music, complex, refined, is warmly offered to the audience. — Michel Dorbon, excerpt from the liner notes
While esteemed reedman Roscoe Mitchell
has appeared in any number of challenging settings, this marks his first documented encounter with electronics. Not that this is a recent move, more that the fruits of his collaboration with David Wessel have not seen the light of day until now. They first met back in 1968 when Mitchell, along with other members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, moved into the house next door to Wessel’s California home. Over the years projects included a piece for the 1986 International Computer Music Conference, the 2002 sessions presented here on CD following Wessel’s invitation to the saxophonist for a two week residency at the University of California Berkley, as well as the 2004 performance from IRCAM in Paris, captured here on DVD.
Over time, computer technology has developed to the point that Wessel no longer needs a stage full of equipment, but uses a touchpad interface which he plays sitting in a way that is reminiscent of a keyboard player. Mitchell confines himself to alto and soprano saxophones, with all music apparently improvised in the moment. Paradoxically the strangest sounds emanate from Mitchell’s saxophone, not the electronics, with circular breathing utilized to an extreme degree, resulting in sound forms alienated from human warmth even at the same time being comprised of breath.
Some of the strongest passages come when Wessel’s electronics evoke conventional instruments. “For Oliver Johnson, part 1” starts as a slow paced thoughtful shimmer of austere beauty lit by Mitchell’s ethereal saxophone. A lovely moment transpires when the saxophonist’s spiraling yelps and multiphonics blend with Wessel’s muffled burbling and indeterminate organ and bell tinkling sounds, as if from a single multi-textured instrument.
There is no break before “part 2” where Wessel hits on a lurching rhythm with textures like tabla, sitar, and percussion which approximate an out of focus raga. Against this Mitchell pitches an unrelenting stream of saxophone consciousness in a hypnotic coruscating tour de force. “Moving” merges with “Schreeds,” which similarly contains another astonishing saxophone exposition with bitten off phrases linked together into an emphatic unbroken flow, bearing witness to some of Mitchell’s most explosive work on disc in years, irrespective of backing.
But it’s not all thunder and lightning. On “Orange Sky” Wessel’s high pitched pure tones intermingle with Mitchell’s capricious swooping flute like an electronic chorus in a hall of mirrors, while the DVD captures a persistently intense but understated performance. Small bubbling susurrations whimper from the bell of the reedman’s circular breathed alto with almost imperceptible variations, accompanied by ambient washes and exhalations from Wessel’s electronics. It’s all very minimalist with even the slightest elevations assuming great significance in such level terrain. Shot from a fixed position, head on, by a lone camera, both seated musicians are not the most visually dynamic tableau. Strangely there are several unexplained fades in and out, but as the single piece develops and changes very slowly fortunately this isn’t too much of a disruption. — John Sharpe
DVD + CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)