Roscoe Mitchell is on a bit of a roll at the moment! A knock & roll motha*”^#@r!!! he is allied here on this 55.12 minute (one track) live performance at Mills Uni from 2012 by James Fei on tri-saxophones, bass clarinets & analog Electronics) & William Winant on masses of percussion (more in the micro form of bells, gongs, woodblocks, cymbals & a massive gallimaufry of odds & ends). Roscoe himself coordinates five reeds & wields his own percussive armada (more cow-bells, xylophones etc). The territory here, or approach if you will, seems to bare the closest relation to Mitchell’s L-R-G The Maze record from 1978 (though definitely in disparity) . the set is fairly specific & sprawls through distinct junctures that contrast considerably in energy, phonology & sentiment, traversing through shifting spheres of mannerism & conduct (it is very hard to pin this shit down). I feel comfortable calling this material, for it’s majority, subdued in terms of the torrefying, fast & protracted rampageous vortex that frequently trails in Mitchells wake. By no means is this conventional or staid stuff (quite the antipode), but it’s generally a much more pensive & phlegmatic affair, constraining Roscoe’s more frequent berserk polychromatic turbulence to the closing chapter only. The stints roam across a disparate terrain of experimental weirdness, clearly with some contrived junctions & syncopations. Typically, this kind of expatious sound-based (as in shunning the traditional music notions & having a rhythm/direction- absent free-fall bereft of the familiar regalia) form of supra amorphous Avant-Guard (I think it’s incorrect to call this Jazz or even Avant-Jazz) does not have compositional structures or stints. Angel City does have some of these points, some of which are overt where as others are unidentifiable due to the quality of improvisation. Whatever the intentions or extent of premeditation, this concept & execution works very well & crucially ensures dynamic versatility & major moderations in mood & style. The musicians also regularly alter instruments, securing a constantly oscillating array of sonic vicissitudes, another vital factor that keeps the experience fresh & ever-stimulating. This kind of stuff can easily be laborious or majorly pharisaic & utterly under-engrossing. For me this CD is a very accomplished example of how to get it right & a lot of expertise are exercised throughout in maintaining this achievement. There is about nine major shifts on the CD, all marked by their own idiosyncrasies & habitat. The percussion is really opaque, & played in a completely untraditional (almost non-musical) conduct, again bobbing & bifurcating in the “sound” dimensions opposed to “music” mediums. Fei’s Electronics unfortunately seem to appear only briefly during the recordings prodrome & seem very modest. Personally I would of very much welcomed more Electronic action from him. There is a fantastic section around the twelve minute mark When an almost Dark Ambient/Death Industrial passage comes prowling through the district, but I am presuming (perhaps wrongly?) that this is actually an extremely low-end bass saxophone growl? It’s a very evocative passage, with extremely low-end adust groaning & droning like some mythical sea creature. Roscoe & Fei go galactic with the prismatic cyclic furore that could so easily have dominated the agenda only from the 51 minute mark closing motions. During this section – Winant plays cascading rolls on some kind of floor-tom whilst oscillating is phraseology (I presume through a foot-pedal?) similar to an African Talking Drum. It’s an exorbitantly quaint performance/CD you have here. Even if you don’t like it/the medium, I fail to see how such adventurous & odd music can’t be enriching in some way. I always prefer Mitchell when he’s ploughing through your face at a trillion giga-tons a millisecond, but this is incredible stuff & his comrades perform exceptionally well. The Avant-Garde vintage here is gigantic & this stuff utterly excels over the typical ramblings that frequent the field, true dons at work. Sound/recording wise, this in truth, should really have had the ultra-studio treatment, as it stares with such lingering scrutiny at the very phonetics of it’s anatomy with acute intensity. This is a high quality live recording, but having all the musicians miked-up by a master sound engineer & the full works of a dope studio is clearly what this kind of craft demands. That’s not to detract from this excellent release, or to suggest that you can’t hear adequately the sounds within, but I definitely think that should be the future focal priority for this group.
Label: Rogue Art