Friday, October 06, 2017

Matt Mitchell - A Pouting Grimace (Pi Recordings, 2017)

Pianist Matt Mitchell has already made his mark on 2017 with an excellent album of solo interpretations from the Tim Berne songbook. This album goes in the opposite direction entirely, gathering a large ensemble of some of the finest talent on the progressive jazz scene for a wildly imaginative collection of music. Mitchell plays a wide range of keyboards and also develops solo electronic soundscapes on four occasions beginning with the opener “Bulb Terminus.” The music explodes vividly into color on the following track “Plate Shapes” which bursts into view with a fascinating opening that recalls some of Andrew Hill's most expressive work. Saxophonists simmer in the music while Mitchell adds urgent, percussive piano. There is a complex rhythm with percussion, vibes and bass which develops the foundation of the music and allows it to bring such unpredictable results. The ensemble passages get more dense as the instruments fill in with cries of saxophone and currents of percussion and drums. Some deep raw biting saxophone opens "Mini Alternate" giving the music a brawny swagger, and the rhythm section offers an interesting retort, building a choppy and muscular sensibility that pushes the music forward. "Brim" produces powerful colors and images with the full ensemble developing sounds that have varied hues and tones but which mesh perfectly. The dynamic nature of the music allows it to interweave sections of abstract tension into the overarching whole of the performance, creating music that is full of life and energy. Mitchell returns to the piano after a few more electronic experiments on "Gluts" with subtle bass and drums in support. Flute and quiet horns move in at the halfway point, melding with the piano trio and concluding the performance. "Heft" crashes in with a dramatic opening movement, and the passion of the musicians really comes to the fore, building a fantasia of sound and color that reaches the apex of their considerable creativity. This was a fine album of truly experimental jazz. The compositions and high quality playing of the band are very well aligned which allowed the music to reach its full fruition. A Pouting Grimace -

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