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Space: New Music for Woodwinds and Voice and An Interesting Breakfast Coversation

Space was one of the more intriguing cross-platform collaborations of the late ’70s and early ’80s. By then, Roscoe Mitchell had solidified his stature in post-Coleman jazz, and had begun to stake out a claim as a new-music composer. In vocalist Thomas Buckner and the late Gerald Oshita, who shared Mitchell’s penchant for extreme low-register horns, Mitchell found compatibility in heterogeneity. They made two LPs for 1750 Arch: New Music for Woodwinds and Voice, which featured improvisation-friendly compositions by Mitchell and Oshita; and An Interesting Breakfast Conversation, which was entirely improvised.

Reissued together, these two albums have retained a surprising amount of their provocative electricity. Space’s bold palette of tenor voice, astringent high reeds and bellowing low reeds, proved to be remarkably flexible on New Music, a program that ranged from the gruff turbulence of Oshita’s “Marche” to the languid counterpoint of Mitchell’s “Variations on Sketches From Bamboo, No. 1 and 2.” Their abilities as improvisers are more thoroughly detailed on their second LP, which lived up to its name by mixing bright banter and dreamy imagery.

Recorded nearly 20 years after New Music, 8 O’Clock reflects both the continuity and change in the rapport between Mitchell and Buckner since Oshita’s passing. The continuity is reflected in maintaining not so much a long thread of thought, but of temperament. During these two lengthy improvisations, Mitchell moves between percussion, flute and soprano and alto saxophones; yet the incremental unfolding of the material is never ruffled. The change is reflected in that Mitchell is doing the switching, as Oshita unfailingly provided contrasting color and forward momentum, allowing Mitchell to remain on the same horn for an entire piece. The change is also manifested in the unwavering solemnity of the proceedings.

Originally Published