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Roscoe Mitchell: Bells for the South Side (ECM)

Review of live double album from Chicago jazz legend

Cover of Roscoe Mitchell album
Roscoe Mitchell’s Bells for the South Side album cover

Recorded in 2015 at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, as part of a celebration of the AACM’s 50th anniversary, this double album basks in powerful memories. Where would modern music be had not Mitchell and his partners in the Art Ensemble of Chicago—now also a half-century old—introduced “little instruments” like the bells on Bells for the South Side and reinvented jazz in so many other ways?

But even as Mitchell acknowledges the past, performing on woodwinds, flute, piccolo and bass recorder, he pushes relentlessly forward with new concepts and constructions. The nine-man lineup may suggest the little-big-band dynamism of Nine to Get Ready, his 1999 octet masterpiece for ECM (from which trumpeter Hugh Ragin, keyboardist Craig Taborn, bassist Jaribu Shahid and drummer Tani Tabbal return here). But this aural adventure, ranging from the barest minimalism to the knottiest interactions, is performed by four different trios and combinations of them.

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Originally Published