Roscoe Mitchell and the Montreal-Toronto Art Orchestra Ride the Wind

Roscoe Mitchell and the Montreal-Toronto Art Orchestra Ride the Wind
Much has been made of the level of harmonic and melodic density and sophistication present in jazz solos. Since the advent of bebop, when this development really took off, recordings have captured this phenomenal fount of music and has made it available for study and analysis as well as listening.
This release is essentially music that has been arranged and orchestrated from solos recorded by Roscoe Mitchell, one of the founding fathers of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and a master improviser in his own right.
While this approach is radical, intriguing and warrants serious study, this recording does not live up to the promise of such a radical new step. There are a few factors that contribute to this.
First, upon a cursory listen, one immediately realizes that what reveals itself as scored work is ferociously complex. It would prove a challenge to the most seasoned New Music ensemble. Those notes have to be played with, not only intense precision and deft phrasing, but a background in performance repertoire that would include the likes of Webern, Berio, Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Bartok, etc. Even then it would still require a significant amount of rehearsal time to get it to a point of unity.
All this would at least give one an idea of the ability of the arranger/ orchestrator to execute a vision of expanding a solo performance into a fully realized work that would not only impart the verve and originality of the source material, but transcend it, so that the listener is gifted with the expanded possibility of the same. Unfortunately, even with the improvised sections, this work does little to accomplish any of these goals.
There are moments of doubt that permeate and some of the ensemble sections (particularly in the last part of "Shard and Lemons") where the music seems to lose itself. Even Mitchell's solo on "They Rode For Them Pt. 2" seems oddly out of place, as if an afterthought. There are moments of light in the small ensemble rendition of Mitchell's "Nonaah," but all in all this release disappoints. (Nessa)