Roscoe Mitchell Quintet


During the last five years, Roscoe Mitchell's discography had seen the start of a new chapter: The Note Factory, a "variable identity" nonet that Mitchell himself had defined as "an ensemble of improvising musicians with an orchestral range"; two pianos, two double basses, two drum/percussion sets, trumpet, trombone or guitar, plus the leader's many wind and percussion instruments. Caught live, the group had been fantastic, while their two studio albums - Nine To Get Ready (1999) and Song For My Sister (2002) - were both excellent.

Compared to the nonet, the new quintet appearing on Turn can only produce a tiny sound mass - and, I suspect, ambitions were also somewhat smaller this time - while the stylistic coordinates are the usual Mitchell stuff. Musicians who appear on the album are familiar faces to those who know Mitchell's discography: Tani Tabbal on drums and percussion, Jaribu Shahid on double bass, electric bass and percussion, Craig Taborn on piano and Corey Wilkes on trumpet - I was not familiar with Wilkes at the time of Song For My Sister, and he had impressed me quite favourably. The smaller instrumentation has maybe suggested a more "classic" approach, but results are not less noteworthy for this. Areas are by now those to be expected on a Mitchell record - the "free-sounding" piece with the dry alto, the piece for percussion where time stands still, the "almost-baroque" piece with flute and piccolo - but this is not a problem, provided one doesn't like to experience only new situations. Fourteen tracks, mostly sounding fresh, in a bit more than one hour.

Quintet One is a nice opener, with its nice "swinging" theme for sax and trumpet which gives space to the ensemble (double bass played with arco) and a nice alto solo by Mitchell; play it side by side with Quintet Nine, featuring piccolo, a trumpet solo with a "classic" group backing, then double bass (arco again) and flute, then we are back to the "swing" theme. For Cynthia is typical of Mitchell, with its concentrated atmosphere, a dry trumpet and the rhythm section playing "against" the melody. Percussions come to the fore on For Now and Page Two A, while the bass sax makes its welcomed return on March 2004. In Six has a sad-sounding theme that would sound appropriate when played on an accordion. Page One has a fine theme and an appropriate development, That's Finished has nice percussion, while the very slow alto on After brings the album to its close.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2005 | Nov. 2, 2005