A live album from Roscoe Mitchell and his exceptional Note Factory band, “Far Side” features bracingly adventurous music from a performance at the Burghausen Jazz Festival in southern Germany in 2007. The Note Factory offers an uncompromising exploration of the levels and degrees of sound inside Roscoe Mitchell’s panoptic compositions, and the constantly-changing music harnesses great energies inside its broad structures.
“Far Side” is the second ECM disc from Mitchell’s Note Factory ensemble. Roscoe described the first, 1999’s “Nine To Get Ready” as “the coming together of a dream I had many years ago of putting together an ensemble of improvising musicians with an orchestral range.” The dream now a solid reality, Mitchell has continued not only to blur demarcation lines between composition and improvisation in this group - as he has in other bands before it - but also to inspire a generation of players. “Far side” features a particularly gifted cast of young trailblazers. Trumpeter Corey Wilkes, and pianists Craig Taborn and Vijay Iyer are meanwhile all established as bandleaders in their own right, and playing with Mitchell has been a priority for each of them.
Craig Taborn explained why in an interview with Nate Chinen: “The kind of things that Roscoe works with [in the Note Factory] have to do with developing your ideas within a certain space, to make it as three-dimensional as possible. To make it full of activity and different currents so that it's a really deep structure, as opposed to being a one-dimensional structure. He likes a lot of depth. The meaning stems from the multiplicity of ideas. But coming out of that, the possibilities of sound change, because you're forced to evolve your sound, your ideas and everything on your own in that context... It really forces you to listen to everything almost with more clarity. You become really aware of the texture. Instead of focusing on one idea or one line of improvisation, you're focusing on this unified space in which all this stuff's occurring. Playing with Roscoe has made me hear that kind of space differently.”
(To facilitate soloist identification amid the flow of things on the present recording: Vijay Iyer, Jaribu Shahid and Tani Tabbal incline to the left side of the stereo panorama, and Craig Taborn, Harrison Bankhead and Vincent Davis to the right.)
Born in Chicago in 1940, Roscoe Mitchell is one of the innovators in creative music of the post-Coltrane, post-Ayler era, and one of the outstanding composer-leaders to have emerged from the ranks of the AACM. He founded the Art Ensemble of Chicago (originally the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble), whose ECM legacy includes the critically-lauded albums “Nice Guys”, “Full Force”, “Urban Bushmen” and “Tribute To Lester”. More recently Mitchell has co-led the Transatlantic Art Ensemble with fellow saxophonist Evan Parker. Roscoe’s album with this conglomeration, “Composition/Improvisation Nos 1, 2 & 3”, won an Album-of-the-Year Award (Choc de l’année) from France’s Jazzman magazine – one of many honours bestowed upon Mitchell. In addition to his touring and performing activities, Roscoe Mitchell currently holds the position of Distinguished Milhaud Professor of Music at California’s Mills College. “Far Side” is issued shortly after his 70th birthday.
Craig Taborn can currently be heard on Michael Formanek’s new album “The Rub & Spare Change”, and he’s just recorded a solo piano disc due for 2011 release on ECM. In 2005 he played on David Torn’s album “Prezens” and with Roscoe appears on the aforementioned “Nine To Get Ready” and the two Transatlantic Art Ensemble discs – as do bassist Jaribu Shahid and drummer Tani Tabbal, who have been part of Mitchell’s music for more than 30 years.
Dynamic young trumpeter Corey Wilkes has also recorded for ECM with the Transatlantic Art Ensemble and filled Lester Bowie’s vacant seat in the Art Ensemble of Chicago since 2003. He is widely regarded as an important player for the future of jazz and funk and hybrid forms in between.
Vijay Iyer, Harrison Bankhead and Vincent Davis all make ECM debuts on “Far Side”. Iyer, very much an improviser of the moment, was recently voted Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. Bassist/cellist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Vincent Davis have toured together with the Roscoe Mitchell Trio. Perhaps best known for his work with the late Fred Anderson, Bankhead has played with Oliver Lake and Joshua Redman, as well as the groups 8 Bold Souls, Frequency and the Indigo Trio. Vincent Davis, previously a member of the trio of Malachi Favors Maghostut, has also played in groups led by Craig Taborn and Billy Brimfield.