|| Roscoe Mitchell / Brus Trio
After Fallen Leaves
Cat. No.: SHCD126
Roscoe Mitchell flute, alto sax, tenor sax, soprano sax
Arne Forsén piano
Ulf Åkerhielm bass
Gilbert Matthews drums, gongs, chimes, percussion
1. Sing (Roscoe Mitchell) 15:22
2. A Lovely Day at the Point (Roscoe Mitchell) 4:40
3. The Reverend Frank Wright (Roscoe Mitchell) 7:04
4. And Then There Was Peace (Roscoe Mitchell) 4:50
5. The Two Faces of Everett Sloane (Roscoe Mitchell) 3:29
6. After Fallen Leaves (Roscoe Mitchell) 7:59
7. Mr Freddie (Roscoe Mitchell) 4:33
8. Come Gather Some Things (Roscoe Mitchell) 11:58
9. Play With the Whistler (Roscoe Mitchell) 7:26
Total time: 67:33
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"If, like yours truly, you are more familiar with multi-reedman Michell's
more extroverted contributions to countless dates with the Art Ensemble of Chicago,
you will find After Fallen Leaves a considerably more pensive (though no
less entrancing) display of his compositional and interpretive talents... This
is a beautiful way to spend one's musical listening time."
Reuben Jackson, Jazz Times, April 1993
"After Fallen Leaves": A journey to Sweden by the major American composer-saxophonist-multiple
woodwind improviser, Roscoe Mitchell, in the autumn of 1989. There he rehearsed
with the Sweden-based Brus Trio, gifted, versatile free jazz artists who quickly
became proficient in his unique musics; as a quartet they played concerts in Stockholm
and in northern Sweden, then at the end of October returned to Stockholm to record
this remarkable disc. The nights were long and the season was changing, with "some
good days and some not so good, though it wasn't really hitter yet," says
Mitchell. Like the unpredictable season, the quartet's music also offers highly
diverse, changing dispositions pastoral peace, humor, severity, detachment
and attachment, and so on a variety that's certainly increasingly characteristic
of Mitchell's art.
It's important that these are not simply the time-honored traveling-soloist-plus-pickup-accompaniment
performances, but true quartet performances. "That was a good thing to have
happen," Mitchell says. "I like people who can perform in several idioms,
and deal with the reeds and stuff, and be up on a certain level technically for
certain types of compositions people who really want to be in full control
of their concentrated power, to project what they're doing. These are interesting
musicians they study that kind of thing." In fact, Mitchell has not
always had the advantage of such confident, accomplished players to perform his
works, so Brus Trio's responsiveness is especially welcome.
The threesome's control, concentration, projection, and mastery of idioms has
been earned through years of working and setting challenges together. Producer
Keith Knox, who brought Mitchell and the trio together, offers biographical information
about these artists. Gilbert Matthews (born 1943) was an established guitarist
in his home city, Capetown, South Africa, when a clubowner asked him to take the
place of an absent drummer; Matthews did, and a successful, wholly new career
in music began. Like some others of that country's finest musicians before him,
Matthews wearied of attempting to create music amidst apartheid's official harrassment,
and left in 1974, settling in Sweden; Abdullah lbrahim, Chris McGregor, Archie
Shepp, Sarah Vaughan and Ray Charles are among those with whom he's subsequently
Meanwhile, pianist Arne Forsen (born 1960, Umeå, Sweden) and bassist Ulf
Åkerhielm (born 1962, Sundsvall, Sweden) were growing up with jazz, playing
it in their youth Åkerhielm was a tenor sax "boy wonder"
at three Pori (Finland) Jazz Festivals and they met when both were studying
classical music at Kapellsburg music school in Härnösand, Sweden. By
1979 they were appearing as a duo, startling audiences with their "outside"
jazz, and scuffling for engagements in Stockholm, Two years later, Matthews heard
them in a club and played with them informally; the experience was so stimulating
to all that they began Brus Trio.
Usually original compositions, most often Forsén's, provide the takeoff
for the trio's free flights, though in two earlier recordings they joined with
lyrical saxophonists John Tchicai and Charles Tyler. Clearly, Brus Trio's eight
years' experience in freely improvising together has brought vigor and sensitivity
to MitchelI's compositions. For instance, Mr. Freddie is in a perfect,
medium-up tempo for swinging what Von Freeman has called "the Chicago
tempo" and the tense, eager, ahead-of-the-beat bass of Åkerhielm
provides irresistible propulsion. Forsén's superb development of ideas
in his piano solo results in a hard-edged line moving with a radical sense of
drama, before Matthews, who is truly a "listening" drummer, at last
breaks loose, enthusiastic assertion balanced by strong formal instincts. All
of this is extension and complement to Mitchell's happy theme and wonderful alto
solo. As the great bassist Wilbur Ware used to say, "Let's play this music
The trio's dynamic and linear sensitivity to Mitchell's ideas is the subtle feature
that makes this music flow, a sensitivity that's crucial to Sing. The music's
constituent elements color, harmony, rhythm, melody are a step removed
from conventional associations, as the work evolves to Mitchell's long-toned alto
While Forsén's piano solo develops largely in rhythmic terms, to the complex,
dancing accompaniment of Åkerhielm and Matthews, the composition's essential
innocence is never violated. And in many ways Brus Trio's most impressive work
on this disc is its freedom within the medium of free space as they interpret
Mitchell's most unique works, presenting the interaction of sounds amid silence
with uncommon clarity and responsiveness. The flowing quality of these performances,
then, is their most pleasing feature.
Before meeting Brus Trio, Mitchell had heard them on record and knew they could
meet his music's demands. The new kind of ensemble that he had brought to jazz
in the 1960s, which eventually became the Art Ensemble of Chicago, thoroughly
refreshed the art form by drawing on all of its resources, past, present, and
future. Subsequently, he began isolating and investigating the fundamental elements
of music, especially sound and its properties, and critic Larry Kart's comments
on Mitchell's LRG/The Maze/S II Examples (Chief CD) could apply to much
of Mitchell's 1970s works: "Harmony is nonexistent, as are melody and rhythm
in the sense of variations from any norm outside the world of the piece. Instead,
we hear timbre and the shape of phrases in space, with the space between each
shape always clearly defined... he is discovering that when music is truly broken
down into its component parts, a new order can emerge.
While Roscoe Mitchell continued to explore along these lines in the 1980s, his
interests expanded in other directions also. The lyrical, melodic, swinging works
that appear here are also typical of his present work, and a special advantage
of the extended time available to compact discs is the opportunity to hear a wider
variety of Mitchell musics than was hitherto possible in a single document. Apart
from his works with his Sound, Space, and Chamber Ensembles, and his concert adventures
with Cecil Taylor, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Steve Lacy, among others, his 1980s
Quartet calls for special mention. The sad passing of his longtime associate,
drummer Steve McCall, concluded the Quartet's efforts, but its explorations (note
Mitchell's 1986 Black Saint album The Flow Of Things) were to blossom forth
into the musics that the Mitchell-Brus Trio quartet presents here.
To look at the performances in order, then:
Sing first appeared in the 1981 Mitchell Sound Ensemble release Snurdy
McGurdy and her Dancin' Shoes (Nessa LP); in this colorful, highly decorated
new version, Mitchell appears first on flute, then on alto sax.
The 55th Street point of Lake Michigan, in the heart of Chicago, is a magnet for
swimmers, sunbathers, picnickers, and others. "I thought of sitting there
on a nice warm day, and usually the drummers were playing and a lot of people
were throwing balls or sitting and watching the lake a lot of gaiety,"
says Mitchell. The isolated tones of his soprano sax and the other, distant, instruments
here, all played very softly, present a detached individual's mood, with the faintest
hint of sly expectancy on A Lovely Day at the Point.
From such soft, spaced sounds to the wild freakout of The Reverend Frank Wright
is a long step indeed. Mitchell recalls meeting Wright in 1968, when the bold
tenor saxman was in Cecil Taylor's band, which shared a California concert with
the Mitchell-Lester Bowie-Malachi Favors trio "We were out there just
barnstorming, the way we usually did." Amid the dense ferocity here, note
how Mitchell's low, blatted, repeated tenor sax figure is the cell motive for
a thorny solo.
And Then There Was Peace is not exactly serene the quartet's reflections
include dark shadings. The work dates from 1962, when Mitchell led a pianoless
quartet in Chicago. "Studying some of the stuff that we were doing back then
is just a wealth of information."
Mitchell says that Everett Sloane is a fictional character but The Two Faces
of Everett Sloane is not really a Dr Jekyll-Mr. Hyde shocker. Rather, one
face is portrayed in near cubist fashion with broken sounds, and the other face
is portrayed in an incredibly long, many noted, involved soprano sax phrase.
After Fallen Leaves is "improvised off certain theme lines,"
with the players creating in separate, independent parts that nevertheless share
a pastoral mood; Mitchell is heard first on flute, then in a long-noted tenor
And then, wham! A big, powerful alto sax tone over roiling accompaniment introduces
Mr Freddie, which has no links to the early blues standard of that title
by Freddie Shayne. Rather, this 1962 song honors Mitchell's trumpeter of those
days, Fred Berry; Mitchell's wondrously melodic solo recalls his links to early
Ornette Coleman, however, bathed in the chemicals of Mitchell's own intensity
and cruel humor.
Come Gather Some Things and Play With The Whistler are improvised
to a "formula" that uses space and many sounds: "It's supposed
to sound like a composition. In improvisation on a high level, you're completely
aware of every part, including yourself." It recalls his sound collages of
LRG and The Maze, with a series of events from a few seconds to
a couple of minutes long, which add a piano to the free motions of multi-wood-wind-string-percussion
sounds in space. Forsén, who ranges from percussive to almost melodic in
his brief not-phrases, often proves a humanizing element as he lends irregular
degrees of harmony to the others' ever-changing sonorities: a sensitive, responsive
improvising quartet indeed.
Since these recording sessions, Mitchell has continued to tour and record widely
with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, including sessions with South African musicians,
Cecil Taylor, and Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy. He's also composed for pianist
Joseph Kubera and for his own several groups, and is planning collaborations with
Henry Threadgill and performances with Douglas Ewart's Clarinet Choir. He continues
to teach at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, his home city, where he plans
to start a large repertory ensemble to perform music of "contemporary composers,
like Ornette Coleman, Muhal Richards Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Leo Smith, Leroy
Jenkins, Henry Threadgill, and on and on." Hopefully, there will be future
collaborations with the Brus Trio, too, for the stimulating success of After
Fallen Leaves, its vitality; flow, and abundantly shared feelings, surely
call for more.