Best known for his pioneering sound-and-space explorations over the past three decades with Art Ensemble of Chicago, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, at 57, performs with the power and passion of someone half his age. He also brings to his music the kind of vision and technical invention a younger player could never manage. Last year Mitchell released Sound Songs, an extraordinary double-disc solo album that could be seen as the culmination of a development cycle that began in 1966 with his groundbreaking debut Sound. Often based around microtonal shifts in timbre or texture (sound) and the calculated use of silence (space), Mitchell's compositions create a thematic ebb and flow that's never at a loss for eloquence. From opera to jazz, R&B to free improv, Mitchell's most recent work is clear-sighted, his tone controlled and capacious, and his execution masterful. "Full Frontal Saxophone," his definitive 10-minute circular-breathing opus on Sound Songs, demands both physical and creative stamina with each successive phrase. It's one of those jaw-dropping melodies that uncoils with great care and cleverness, like a giant luminescent serpent stretching its scales for many a country mile. Remarkably, each sonic episode is all music -- a loud and clear demonstration of Mitchell's lifelong devotion to the art.
-- Sam Prestianni
Roscoe Mitchell performs Sunday, June 7, at 8:15 p.m. at Beanbender's (2295 Shattuck in Berkeley). Tickets are $12; call 621-1967.