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Roscoe Mitchell With Ostravaska Banda Performing Distant Radio Transmission Also Nonaah Trio, Cutouts For Woodwind Quintet, And 8.8.88
The first Piece 'Distant Radio Transmission' was first recorded as an improvisation by Roscoe Mitchell, Craig Taborn, and Kikanju Baku in 2013 and released as the third composition on Roscoe Mitchell Conversations I (Wide Hive Records WH-0317). It was then transcribed by Stephen P. Harvey in 2016 with further Transcription and Orchestration of air sounds for Strings by John Ivers in 2017 and finally then fully Orchestrated by Roscoe Mitchell in 2017. Here it is performed in 2019 by Mr Mitchell on Soprano Saxophone and the influential Czech Orchestra Ostravaska Banda.
'Nonaah Trio' was recorded in Oregon with Roscoe Mitchell on Soprano Saxophone, Dana Reason on Piano, John C Savage on Flute, and Catherine Lee D. Mus on Oboe. 'Cutouts for Woodwind Quintet' was rewritten for five instruments by Mr. Mitchell in 2019 and recorded in New York before his Park Avenue Armory performance in March of 2019.
August 8, 1988 Roscoe wrote three compositions for piano intended for the great concert pianist Mr. Joseph Kubera. Since this work was not subject to the constraints associated with commissioned work Roscoe spent ten years finalizing the first movement. In 1998 The Mutable Music Foundation commissioned the composition's remaining movements. 8/8/88 consists of three sections. The first movement is 35 measures long, divided asymmetrically into uncommon time signatures such as 15/8, 11/8, 17/8 etc. The second movement has 17 measures and the third movement 44 measures. Here it is performed on a Disklavier by Seth Horvitz.
Experimental and Luminous
The saxophonist and composer Roscoe Mitchell is best known as a founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. But even when operating outside that pan-stylistic group, his approach contains multitudes. When I reviewed Mitchell's concerts at the Park Avenue Armory in 2019, I marveled at his solo-saxophone heroics and meditative chamber music designs.
The composer's latest record, released this week on the Wide Hive label, affords us an even broader view. Most jaw-dropping is the 20-minute title track, ''Distant Radio Transmission,'' performed here by Mitchell and a 33-piece orchestra conducted by Petr Kotik. Like many of Mitchell's recent orchestral opuses, this one has its roots in earlier, improvised trio recordings. (After the improvised version of this track was transcribed and partially orchestrated by associates of the composer, Mitchell completed the full orchestration in 2017.)
What was once sparely avant-garde is now luminously experimental. Electronics join with tart wind harmonies and resonant pitched percussion during the opening. The baritone Thomas Buckner a veteran of Robert Ashley's operas brings abstract, ghostly exhalations to the mix, later on. Around the halfway point, when a stretch of Mitchell's striated soprano-saxophone ornamentations gives way to jaunty patterns in the wider orchestra, there is a sense of a singular intelligence at work.
It never sounds like easy listening. Though when focusing on the finer details in this ''Distant Radio Transmission,'' it's easy to be transported by the intensity of this broadcaster's imagination.
Seth Coulter Walls --The New York Times March 26, 2020