The Wire (9/02, p.56) - "...Mitchell is an original and compelling composer...Superbly recorded, on SONG FOR MY SISTER Roscoe Mitchell transcends the exclusive club of jazz composers..."
Personnel includes: Roscoe Mitchell (soprano, alto & tenor saxophones, flute, great bass & bass recorders, percussion); Corey Wilkes (trumpet); Anders Svanoe (clarinet, bass clarinet); Willy Walter (bassoon); Janse H. Vincent (violin); Nels Bultmann (viola); Gerald Cleaver (xylophone, drums, percussion); Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer (piano); Spencer Barefield (guitar); Jaribu Shahid, Leon Dorsey (bass).
Roscoe Mitchell & the Note Factory/Roscoe Mitchell: Vijay Iyer.
Personnel: Roscoe Mitchell (flute, recorder, bass recorder, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, percussion); A. Spencer Barefield (guitar); Nils Bultmann (viola); Anders Svanoe (clarinet, bass clarinet); Willie Walter (bassoon); Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer (piano); Gerald Cleaver (marimba, drums, percussion); Vincent Davis (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixers: Buzz Kemper; Steve Gotcher.
Recording information: Audio for the Arts, Madison, WI.
Editors: Buzz Kemper; Steve Gotcher.
Photographer: Joseph Blough.
Surprise! Song for My Sister opens with the very Blue Note-ish head of the title track, definitely an unexpected move by a saxophonist noted for experimentalism. And while Corey Wilkes' trumpet solo and Vijay Iyer's piano solo take things into a little more of the abstract, it never really loses that straight-head thread, which is really a band feature, a platform for individual solos and a tenor tone from Roscoe Mitchell far more mellifluous than his acerbic norm.
"Sagitta" returns to more typical Mitchell terrain: piano swirls, tart-tone soprano flurries, and cymbal crashes. The nine-man Note Factory includes double piano, bass, and drums, but they know how to stay out of each other's way and a radically compressed sound is actually an advantage here, helping to create the collective improv swirl background to Mitchell's circular breathing soprano lines on "The Inside of a Star." Ultimately, the material seems geared as much toward creating different settings as full-blown compositions per se. "When the Whistle Blows" features ruminative guitar fills and piano while the leader's soprano flurries builds in intensity; "The Megaplexian" is pure abstraction built on piano clusters and the metallic tones of a percussion instrument Mitchell invented for a gamelan-related composition. "Wind Change" is based on cards and addresses common problems of the inexperienced improviser -- it's a very chamber-ish exercise in melodic textures with four extra musicians in the ensemble and full of unexpected shifts and variations. Marimbas and percussion give an African tinge to open "This" before a muted trumpet and piano rhythm/melody that recalls Iyer's work as a composer leads into an exercise in atmosphere and texture with Mitchell on flute. It's even more intriguing for foreshadowing "Step One, Two, Three," which strongly suggests that Mitchell had spent time listening to '70s Ethiopian pop music. The piano riff and martial drums grind the piece in a lurching, shifting foundation while Mitchell and Wilkes intertwine their lines and roam freely. It's very easy to visualize as a track from the Ethiopiques series filtered through the Mitchell muse. "Count-Off" closes with a bit more of that lurching groove and it's nice to have a more physical element as a counterbalance to Mitchell's sometimes austere texture and atmosphere forays. Song for My Sister is a strong album that takes in a wide variety of musical settings -- short pieces, long pieces, excursions into tradition, textures, and abstraction -- without losing cohesiveness. It's an always interesting journey. ~ Don Snowden