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Roscoe Mitchell and the Note Factory: The Far Side

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A live recording from Germany’s Burghausen Festival in 2007, Far Side furthers Roscoe Mitchell’s distinctive mesh of brusque jazz and alert chamber music, spun by the double quartet of his Note Factory into a webbing of tensile strength and innovative textures. It begins with a 31-minute magnum opus, “Far Side/Cards/Far Side,” that dawns portentously with bowed strings and breathy squeaks through a metal mouthpiece. The journey then becomes both meandering and persistent, with a slightly ethereal ambience, before shifting into a familiar Mitchell device-a patchwork quilt of brief flourishes, from piano trills to cymbal fills to lowing, bowed bass and cello advisories.

At the halfway point the music erupts like scattering cockroaches when the light goes on, seemingly chaotic but utterly shrewd. Mitchell’s soprano joins in four minutes later, both keening and modulated like Indian music, adding to the roiling heave and churn that’s all infused with a dab of glee. Then Mitchell steps back and Corey Wilkes moves from a baritone-deep growl to rippling fanfares that inevitably provoke comparisons to Lester Bowie. The abrupt ending is a crafty surprise, and the work in all is a whale of an endeavor that balances composition and improvisation on a grand scale.

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