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by Seth Colter Walls

June 14, 2014

Catching Up with Roscoe Mitchell, 2013-14

by Seth Colter Walls  |  June 14, 2014

As part of the Art Ensemble Chicago, saxophonist-composer Roscoe Mitchell was an early star of the late-'60s collective known as the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (or AACM). But half a century later, the fearless artist is still working at a high level, and at a furious pace. In the last year and change, he's appeared on six full-length albums, in some respect. Click play on our mix to start experiencing the full range of improvisation and composition that Mitchell has been offering in this late-period renaissance.

There are his two Conversations trio albums from 2014, recorded with contemporary piano star Craig Taborn and newcomer percussionist Kikanju Baku. (Given the quieter nature of some of the tracks in our mix, we're privileging hot-stuff cuts from this band -- like "They Rode for Them," "Who Dat" and "Stay Hayfer" -- though the full albums contain some more meditative tracks, as well.) Last year, Mutable Music released an album on which Mitchell's horn does not appear at all: Not Yet is merely an album of Mitchell's classical chamber music compositions. (The cascading piano-and-sax title-track duet "Not Yet" may remind you of hurly-burly free jazz, but it's all precisely notated.) Even more compelling are Mitchell's string quartet "9/9/99 with Cards" and the orchestral pieces "Would You Wear My Eyes?" and "Nonaah" (the latter being a chamber-orchestra arrangement of an early Mitchell piece for solo saxophone).

And that's just half of what Mitchell has been up to as a recording artist. We can't forget his duo album with young-gun percussion (and sometime piano) virtuoso Tyshawn Sorey. Or Voice Prints -- Mitchell's quartet date with Alan Rudolph, Douglas Ewart and the late Yusef Lateef. Wrapping up our survey is a cut from a live Mitchell recording made at London's progressive Cafe OTO in 2012 (and released in 2013), in a band alongside Tony Marsh and John Edwards. We combine all these projects into a playlist that's just over two hours in length. But if you dig these selections, there's much more to explore on the albums proper. (Likewise, you might also want to check out one of our latest radio stations -- The AACM Scene -- which is devoted to the careers of Mitchell and other titans hailing from that collective.) Enjoy!

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