* J.S. Bach: Cantatas BWV12, etc. (Collegium Vocale Gent/Herreweghe): Brussels 11-03-08 (FM 2CDR)
* Concerto Madrigalesco (Gugliemi): Mozartsaal, Konzerthaus, Vienna 1-21-10 (FM CDR)
* Carter: Chamber Music (Oppens/Arditti Quartet) (Montaigne/Naïve CD)
* Lennie Tristano & Warne Marsh: Intuition (Capitol/Blue Note CD)
* Jeanne Lee & Ran Blake: The Legendary Duets (RCA/Bluebird CD)
* Sun Ra: Concert For Comet Kohoutek (ESP-Disk’ CD)
* Sun Ra: The Paris Tapes 1971 (Art Yard/Kindred Spirits 2CD)
* Andrew Hill: Dusk (Palmetto CD)
* Andrew Hill: Time Lines (Blue Note CD)
* Roscoe Mitchell & The Note Factory: Nine To Get Ready (ECM CD)
* Roscoe Mitchell & The Note Factory: Song For My Sister (Pi CD)
* Roscoe Mitchell & The Note Factory: Far Side (ECM CD)
* James Blood Ulmer: Odyssey (Columbia LP)
* Matthew Shipp: 4D (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Otomo Yoshide/Bill Laswell/Yoshigaki Yasuhiro: Soup (P-Vine CD)
* Otomo Yoshide/Bill Laswell/Yoshigaki Yasuhiro, et al.: Soup Live (P-Vine 2CD)
* Manu Dibango: Electric Africa (Celluloid LP)
* George Harrison: All Things Must Pass (d.1-2)(Capitol 3CD)†/‡
* Grateful Dead: Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ 6-19-76 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ 6-18-76 (SBD 2CDR)‡
* Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol.1 No.2: October ’77 (GDP/Rhino 2+1CD)‡
* Bob Dylan: Shot of Love (Columbia CD)
* Neil Young: Harvest Moon (Reprise CD)†/‡
* Patti Smith: Radio Ethiopia (Arista CD)
* Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino CD)†
* Animal Collective: Fall Be Kind (Domino CDEP)†
As I was idly browsing around Amazon.com, I was surprised to discover that a new CD by Roscoe Mitchell & The Note Factory had been released last November on the ECM label, entitled Far Side. How did I miss this?! Of course, I immediately ordered a copy and have listened to it quite a bit this week. This long-standing group has gone through several personnel changes over the years, although the unique, two-piano format has remained consistent. Moreover, Mitchell’s compositional approach has become steadily more abstract, moving steadily away from jazz idioms and scoring into more ambitious “contemporary classical” realms. In that sense, Far Side sounds a lot more like Mitchell’s Transatlantic Art Ensemble than any of The Note Factory’s earlier releases and may disappoint fans of the kinds of fun and funky vocal numbers featured on those previous discs. However, the rewards are great for the intrepid listener.
Recorded live by Bayerischer Rundfunk at Stadtsaal in Burghausen, Germany on March 17, 2007, the disc opens with the lengthy title track (actually entitled, “Far Side/Cards/Far Side”), which develops slowly and deliberately across its thirty minutes, beginning with barely audible scrapes and scribbles and culminating in a ferocious group improvisation. Remarkably compelling from beginning to end, the piece demonstrates Mitchell’s fine-tuned control of his material and the band’s sympathetic and inspired responses. Pianists Craig Taborn and Vijay Iyer manage to stay out of each other’s way, while still generating densely intricate webs of sound at just the right moments. The same can be said of the double rhythm section (Jaribu Shahid and Harrison Bankhead on bass; Tani Tabbal and Vincent Davis on drums), who provide supple, sensitive support while also raising the temperature where appropriate. Corey Wilkes’s beautiful trumpet playing incorporates expressive extended techniques with full-bodied blowing and he continues to be the most perfect foil to Mitchell’s reed outings since Lester Bowie’s untimely passing in 1999. This track is a tour de force of dynamic group interplay and consistently rewards repeated listenings.
The remainder of the disc is given over to shorter pieces, each of which subdivides the largish band into smaller, subtly shifting ensembles. While none are as overwhelmingly powerful as the opening track, they do explore a variety of interesting harmonic and rhythmic territories, perhaps hinting at possibilities more than fully realizing them. However, they provide further evidence of Mitchell’s compositional prowess and the band’s superlative interpretative abilities.
Recorded and mixed with ECM’s usual meticulous attention to detail and bathed in the kind of warm, reverberant ambience that has become their trademark, this is an outstanding release. Surely one of the best records of 2010—wish I’d known about it sooner!