Roscoe Mitchell, Tony Marsh, John Edwards - Improvisations (4 stars)

Roscoe Mitchell, Tony Marsh, John Edwards - Improvisations

Double album documenting 2012 Cafe Oto residency by avant-garde jazz lynchpin


Roscoe Mitchell is one of the most challenging thinkers in jazz, whether as soloist, composer or member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. This superb double album documents his 2012 residency at London’s avant-garde hub Cafe Oto, joined by bass virtuoso John Edwards and percussionist Tony Marsh, who tragically passed away two months after the event. As such, Improvisations stands as a fitting tribute to Marsh, whose idiosyncratic approach – he played a jerry-rigged set of suspended drums, with no hi-hats or kick – makes him an inspired foil for Edward’s head-spinning bass inventions and Mitchell’s strident blend of skewed melody and extended technique. This is music that demands the listener’s concentration, but it’s well worth the effort, as Mitchell leads you through solar systems of richly textured sustained tones and giddy feats of circular breathing, his mercurial rhythm section following headfirst into the constellation.