Matt Mitchell – Matt Mitchell plays Tim Berne: førage
(Screwgun Records. CD review by Henning Bolte)
Pianist Matt Mitchell has a broad, deep range of contemporary music at his fingertips, and is a musician who has intertwined its constructive possibilities at a high creative level. He decided to dive still deeper in the music of one of his closest fellow musicians and inspirer Tim Berne and sculpt something relevant out of it. Berne is one of those jazz musician in whose music a strong and stringent compositional strategy is at work. Its gestalt rises from contrasting and countering shifts lurking in the compositional core. Its own recurrent systematics are not discernible in a linear way or on the surface. Mitchell, who was engaged in Berne’s music and started to work in Berne’s Snakeoil unit some eight years ago, has gained deep knowledge of and insight into Berne’s way of working and his aesthetics, which stems back to 2009, when Mitchell, impressed Berne massively with an opening solo set for a Berne appearance with solely Berne pieces which he had re-conceived for piano.
The album presenting this work comes with cover artwork and package by Steven Byram on Berne’s own Screwgun label. It is a Nine Donkey Production with Daniel Goodwin’s engineer work, Sonic Föraging by Bavîd Torñ all dedicated för Sârāh, a labour of love embodied by remarkable sounds, shapes and materiality.
The opening piece of the album, Pænë, is one of almost hushed, rare beauty. Being an expression of humbly devoting passion, it could easily serve as a concluding piece. The real last piece, Sîiñ, is quite similar to this first piece, which means it could also be the opening piece. These two pieces of great clearness, depth, which wafting in the music of an equinoctial breeze, bookend the whole sequence of seven pieces. In between a lot of temperatures and temperaments can be heard, from jumbling staccato to serenity, from surging waves, slipping stone avalanches to ballad qualities shining through. None of the seven pieces is clearly and easily attributable to a single original piece by Berne. Certain elements of Berne’s work are used as plug-in or as torch. They appear in different light and drive new shoots etc.. Consequently they are established as new units in their own right (in first instance) under Mitchell’s hands.
In Trāçeś the pianist’s two hands act independently in a way that it can be perceived as intricate real duo performance. It starts with highly abstracted Monk staccato, after which repetitive runs of agitated lines take over. The real fun starts when Mitchell starts to jumble the ideas, without them ever colliding. It then divides in high register part and a low register part serving each other and finding common ground. The piece finishes with ad infinitum runs.
Àäš, the longest piece (running almost a quarter of on hour), is a miracle of beauty without exit. There are a lot of varied movements and none is leading out of that wondrous, shining oasis. Räåy is the surf piece of the album with its surging waves rolling and the subsequent Œrbs could associate with the sound of a permanently slipping stone avalanche. Cløùdé then with its ballad qualities, exquisite beauty and rich subtle dynamics is thundering, draining and dripping at the end.
Listening to the pieces you could be torn between following the mountain stream and wanting to discern familiar elements, lines, shapes and architecture. The best approach is to abandon search for the familiar, and to immerse oneself as deeply as possible in the movements of the music first and finally getting satisfied by an apprehension of the gestalt that crystallizes in that kind of rewarding interaction. It is facilitated then by the clear articulation, flow and conclusiveness of the music.