Behind the Bamboo Curtain

Roscoe Mitchell Creative Orchestra
Sketches from Bamboo
Moers : 1979

RM, alto sax; Leo Smith, trumpet; Anthony Braxton, reeds; Douglas Ewart, reeds; Wallace McMillian, reeds; Dwight Andrews, reeds; Marty Ehrlich, reeds; Kenny Wheeler, trumpet; Hugh Ragin, trumpet; Mike Mossmann, trumpet; Rob Howard, trumpet; George Lewis, trombone; Ray Anderson, trombone; Alfred Patterson, trombone; Pinguin Moschner, tuba; Marilyn Crispell, piano; Bobby Naughton, vibes; Wes Brown, bass; Pheeroan akLaff, drums, percussion.

Chilly Jay Chill: The majority of the music on this album is abstract and spacious, the sort of almost Zen-inspired tone poem you might expect from an album called Sketches from Bamboo. And it’s fine music, too. But I dig how often Roscoe inserts a real uptempo corker into his programs, a nugget with strong rhythmic and melodic elements to make sure you’re paying attention and/or renew your curiosity after some serious abstraction. It seems like that’s what “Linefinelyon 7″ is doing here.

Prof. Drew LeDrew: Yeah, and it’s position in between “Sketches From Bamboo Cyp I” and “Cyp II” makes it all the more so. Very AACM, and especially very Muhal Richard Abrams. Though the pianist is Marilyn Crispell. And the band is SICK.

CJC: The band is a stacked deck: There’s no way Roscoe could deal himself a losing hand. It’s interesting this is the ensemble he shared with Wadada Leo Smith for the purposes of them each recording a large orchestral work. It’s an ingenious budgetary solution — two different albums from one ensemble — and a shame this isn’t done more often. Wadada says they both chose the musicians, taking turns adding names to the list. This is one of Crispell’s first appearances; she came recommended by Braxton.

DLD: I can just hear Roscoe: “So on this tune, Marilyn, I just want you to comp like a slightly deranged Count Basie.” What’s with the naming convention of the tune here?

CJC: I wonder if “lyon” is meant to indicate the namesake town in France, where maybe this composition had some geographical origin? Or if the evocative play on “fine line” is meant to evoke the sort of tightrope the band walks between in and out modes. I also think of “lion” and the piece does roar!

DLD: I also thought “Lyon” could refer to Jimmy Lyons, but that might just be because I had him in mind given his recent birthday.

CJC: You hear many similarities between this and Wadada’s Budding of a Rose?

DLD: The Wadada cuts and the Roscoe performances definitely share sonic traits — how could they not — but their individual soundprints are all over the tunes. Wadada’s have his probing, patient, exploratory vibe (writ big), while Roscoe’s showcase his abstract-yet-forward-leaning tendencies. I believe Wadada referred them as sister albums. Let’s re-up that post so readers can decide for themselves.


Category Roscoe Mitchell Tags , , , , , , , , ,