March 2018 News:

Point of Departure Journal Review, March 2018

Roscoe Mitchell & the Montreal-Toronto Art Orchestra
Ride the Wind
Nessa Records 40

Roscoe Mitchell’s large-ensemble works have been rare and include some highlights of his career like his 1979 big band and 2009 symphony-orchestra setting of Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City. Ride the Wind is another highlight. Stuart Broomer’s extensive program notes illuminate the long process that yielded six of these seven new pieces. They’re orchestrations, by Mitchell and three colleagues, of pieces from his two Conversations CDs (Wide Hive, 2013), those bright, tight, closely felt improvisations by Mitchell, keyboardist Craig Taborn, and drummer Kikanju Baku. And hoo boy, the Ride the Wind expansions sound nothing like the originals. New material got added, interpretations are free as can be, with different dynamics, and there’s some more improvising, too. For instance, the title piece and “RUB” originally began as rubato explorations of sound-space tension, which disappears completely in the 21-piece-orchestra version. Instead, the “Ride the Wind” track now has slow momentum and long-tone harmonies, while “RUB” is a veritable zoo of awakening sounds and colors.

The young orchestra includes five brass, two violas, five rhythm, vibes, and six woodwinds from piccolo to contrabass clarinet. With such resources, no wonder the orchestrations blew the originals up into such a colorful spectrum of sounds. The most drastic reinterpretation is “Shards and Lemons,” which originated as a concentrated, 3:41 duet of tensions. Mitchell himself blew this one up into 12 minutes of all kinds of contrasts, high vs. low, long tones vs. tiny, fast tones, tense sounds in space vs. full ensemble. Christopher Luna-Mega’s orchestration of “Splatter” may come closest to the contours of the original, but oh, my, what rich sounds. “They Rode for Them” is divided into two parts, which include the CD’s only solos, Yves Charuest on alto and Mitchell on sopranino. Finally, there is yet another interpretation of “Nonaah,” a quartet version by Nicolas Caloia. Are we now in the Era Of The Composer?  Because there’s sure been some stimulating music recently and Ride the Wind is sure a beauty.

–John Litweiler