Label/Year: Screwgun Records, 2017
Lineup - Matt Mitchell: piano.
Matt Mitchell is a sought-after pianist whose acerbic voice and impressionistic musical vision have been featured in works of likes such as Rudresh Mahanthappa, Dan Weiss, Greg Osby, Anna Webber, Dave Douglas, Michael Attias, and Darius Jones. If this wasn’t enough, Mitchell is a valuable and integral member of Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, a collective with plenty of creativity.
It’s exactly in these creative contexts that Mitchell feels comfortable, however, for his third album as a leader he goes even further in his boldness.
The successor of Vista Accumulation (Pi Recordings, 2015) is a solo work entitled Forage, produced by the sound wizard David Torn and released on Screwgun Records. The album comprises inventive interpretations of seven compositions by Tim Berne, in a recognizable tribute from the pianist to the one who perceived his virtues and abilities, even during a premature stage of his career.
The attempt of drawing something new and meaningful in this essay really paid off, and the reason is because whenever this inveterate colorist lays his fingers on the piano keys, the resultant melodies and harmonic progressions blossom with imagination, trust, and charm, regardless the intensity and pace they are played.
Even identifying Berne’s traits here and there, the whole belongs entirely to Mitchell. On one hand, we have combinations of Berne’s tunes squeezed into one; on the other, Mitchell’s approach opts for ruminative, intelligible, and reflective thoughts imbued of crystalline lyricism, which feel less hectic than Berne’s renderings.
“Paene”, “Aas”, and “Siin” exemplify well these steep dramatizations of temperate character, making us imagine a cross between Keith Jarrett and Paul Bley, pianistically speaking.
In “Cerbs”, the pianist works on a procession of chords and juxtaposed melodies to set the seductive tones that characterize the beginning and the ending. Never static, he reserves the middle section to wallowing in further rhythmic experimentation. In a similar way, “Traces” is conjured with an eruptive plot of textural melodic flurries, which play an essential part of the puzzling structure. Here, rumbling lower-register dynamics interweave with rapid-fire right-hand attacks, forming complex geometric figures of random shapes.
As a highlight, “Cloude” is an achingly beautiful experience that never stops to mesmerize through a crescendo surrealism. The initial dreamy tones reach the climax at some point of the middle section, where Mitchell’s technique excels with tremendous emotional focus and natural spontaneity. It made me think of an intersection between Matthew Shipp’s fragmented rhythms and dusky classical music.
Boasting a sheer amount of fresh ideas, Matt Mitchell’s Forage defies any categorization beyond the word 'modern'. Tim Berne has every reason to be proud of his reliable and insightful sideman.
01 – Paene ► 05 – Cerbs ► 06 – Cloude