Why has Matt Mitchell become the go-to pianist for so many jazz artists on the fringe? His output provides the best answers, by highlighting a broad skill set and a paradoxical musical makeup that blends rigorous organization and free will in fluid proportions. Whether investigating Bird with Rudresh Mahanthappa, exploring biology through sound with Steve Coleman or engaging in oblique dialogue with Tim Berne, he always seems to fulfill and sidestep expectations.
A Pouting Grimace, Mitchell’s third release on the Pi imprint, magnifies those cornerstone qualities. The album’s 10 tracks find him alternately engaged with an impressive crew of likeminded renegades and serving up solo electronic interludes. In both instances he manages to push the envelope without driving listeners away.