Roscoe Mitchell & Mike Reed

The Ritual and the Dance
Astral Spirits AS 146

Mitchell/Mazzoll/Janicki/Janicki

Four Sure

MUZYKA Z MÓZGU MZM-12CD

Late October 2015 in Europe was very fertile musically for multi-reedist Roscoe Mitchell. On October 22 he and Chicago drummer Mike Reed recorded The Ritual and the Dance, a single extended improvisation in concert in Antwerp, Belgium. Two days later in a club in Bydgoszcz, Poland, he and a trio of local musicians recorded a nine-track session that had been in the planning stages for over 20 years.

The rapport with Reed, an AACM member like Mitchell and someone who works with many international improvisers, is no surprise, but the integration of Mitchell’s saxophone playing within an ensemble as part of this first-time, two-day meeting is another matter. Already playing their own brand of free music the chief organizers of the gig were influenced by the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC) and in 1994 contracted its members to sound them out on collaboration. The answer was positive, but it wasn’t until 2004 that Mitchell and bassist Sławek Janicki met in Poznań, and it took an additional 11 years to set up the concerts. In the end the two bandleaders were joined by another veteran player, clarinetist Jerzy Mazzoll, and percussionist Qba Janicki, the bassist’s son. Interestingly while Mitchell concentrates on higher-pitched reeds with Reed, his low-pitched arsenal is emphasized on Four Sure.

An accomplishes duet partner, the saxophonist’s nasal squeaks and double tongued circular breathing fluidly set up parameters with the drummer’s cymbal ringing, rat tat tats and accelerating rattles. Without pausing for breath, harsh squeals, echoing yelps and peeling split spill from Mitchell’s saxophone with the staccato patterns met with thumping bops and metallic clunks from Reed. Yet the drummer’s symmetrical response doesn’t preclude expressive rhythmic detours into gong-like smacks and unattached cymbals rubbed on drum tops. Decisively at the three-quarter mark as Reed continues to advance the rolling motif, Mitchell breaks into atonal overblowing advanced with smears and sputters. Rounding the circle with small instrument pings and clanking patterns the drummer completes and connects the duo program.

Contrasts between that CD and Four Sure are significant. Although the nine tracks flow into an almost seamless whole, there’s less emphasis on drum patterning as opposed to percussion asides and electronic samples. Bassist Janicki concentrates the rhythmic function, while Mitchell’s subterranean vibrations are doubled by Mazzoll’s chalumeau outpourings or confronted with metal clarinet shrills. During the three-part “ONE SOUND”, the double bassist’s pressurized beat directs the narrative forward at the same time as it’s defined by thick and irregular low-pitched vibrations from the reed players. The only respite from the almost oppressive horizontal exposition is at mid point when galloping drums and snatches of electronic samples kick in. A switch to shriller peeps from Mitchell and Mazzoll are not so much climatic as shifts to the “SECOND and THIRD” tracks dedicated to interlocking reed variations that feature spewing glossolalia, studied multiphonics and crying split tones. The rhythm players dissect the groove in the same way with anvil-hard drum beats and string strumming power pushes. Reaching a crescendo of nearly impenetrable mass tones, the remainder of the concert suggests a logical dimuendo in intensity if not volume.

“TRANS (LOVE TERRAIN)” with its pipe-organ-like electronic trembles and thinner expressive trills from the reed players signals this change. It’s confirmed during the next few minutes with not only a pounding drum backbeat and sul tasto bass strums but also unexpected reed splintering with one player’s melodic output slashed to squealing shrills. As the final sequence cools to a straight-ahead narrative woody clarinet trills and trembling saxophone glissandi slurp to stasis, with the conclusion signaled by a single drum slap.

Unfortunately the results of Mitchell’s autumnal European foray have taken more than half a decade to be released. But the breath and invention of these discs make up for that lapse.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Ritual: 1. The Ritual and the Dance

Personnel: Ritual: Roscoe Mitchell (soprano and tenor saxophones) and Mike Reed (drums and electronics)

Track Listing: Sure: 1. ONE SOUND PART I (PRELLUDE TRIO) 2. ONE SOUND PART II (FOUR SURE) 3. ONE SOUND PART III (FOUR SPIRITS) 4. SECOND SOUND (DOUBLE DIALOGUES) 5. THIRD SOUND (TWO TRIOS) 6. TRANS (LOVE TERRAIN) 7. FOR LOVE (TRANSPORT) 8. SYBERIAN (LOVE TRAIN) 9. KOCHAM WAS (I LOVE YOU)

Personnel: Sure: Roscoe Mitchell (sopranino saxophone and bass clarinet); Jerzy Mazzoll (bass and metal clarinets); Sławek Janicki (bass) and Qba Janicki (drums, percussion and electronics)