Robert Mitchell : Music
Additional info about the sounds,groups,recordings,gigs,tours,and teaching of the musician,pianist,keys player,composer,arranger,and lyricist
Thursday, 5 January 2012
Monday, 15 August 2011
Friday, 22 April 2011
(A Map Of The Sky - Kings Place Feb 2011)
(Mio Inamorato - )
(Aura - Vortex 2010 )
(Red Bridge intro - Kings Place)
(Redb Br vs Round Mn - The Forge)
Thursday, 10 March 2011
Robert Mitchell, Ray’s Jazz at Foyles, Thursday 10th February 2011
Robert Mitchell is one of the most original pianists on the UK scene. Mainly known for his Panacea group, he has also worked with US saxophonists Greg Osby and Steve Coleman and in a duo format with violinist Omar Puente. But this solo gig was the first in a new series at Ray’s Jazz cafe in Foyles bookshop on London’s Charing Cross Road, a delightful place to watch music with its great sight lines, sparky acoustics and nicely bohemian vibe.
Mitchell’s compositions are probing, labyrinthine tone poems which bear little or no relation to classic song forms or the blues tradition. Yet they’re not tricksy or difficult to follow – they seem logical in the way that Thelonious Monk’s compositions seem logical, with a frequent juxtaposition of a simple melody and complex harmony. The more oblique melody lines and surprising chord changes sometimes bring to mind the music of Wayne Shorter.
At Ray’s, Mitchell went about his business in a remarkably unruffled, considered manner, frequently pausing for Monkishly long periods between notes and revisiting melodic ideas until he was happy with them before moving on. He often played ‘sound’ as well as melodic motifs, using ripples of notes to underpin his improvisations and frequently embarking on free passages which suggested the more outré stylings of ‘Facing You’-era Keith Jarrett. Jarrett was also invoked in the occasional outbreak of rhapsodic, major-chord lyricism. ‘The Red Bridge v. Round Midnight’ raised a few smiles with its neat mash-up of Monk and harmolodics, with Mitchell conceding ‘I think “Round Midnight” won that time, as usual…’
Mitchell frequently turned jazz piano logic on its head, comping with his right hand and soloing with the left, and even embarking on a piece written solely for left hand which somehow didn’t scrimp on melodic invention or variety. How many jazz pianists have done that? (Send in an email if you can think of any…) Mitchell seemed to be looking to surprise himself at every turn, in turn surprising his audience too. You can’t ask for more from a jazz musician than that.
I have had a great time writing music for a project called 'At The End Of The Rainbow' for Nitro (Black Music Theatre) and AllChange. Three pairings of poet and musician (HKB Finn and Alex Wilson, Zena Edwards and Arun Ghosh, Yemisi Blake and myself) were given the choice to work with a selection of community groups in North London. And we would try to find out what is at the rainbow's end for the folk in these groups...
Yemisi and I chose to visit a day centre for elders. Some really fascinating conversations arose as a result of this. This centre caters for a large range of cultures - with the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean being amongst the most prominent on the days we visited. A number of common themes did emerge - family, food, weather, religion, travel, work, health. Getting more deeply into certain subject matter - I was really struck by some fascinating memories that were shared with us.
One person had a surprising combination of cultures involved in their childhood (esp for the times) - and worked at the MoD later on. Another , amazingly - was a dresser at the Royal Opera House - meeting legends on a regular basis (Maria Callas, Pavarotti, Nureyev and more). I sense this was the tip of the iceberg. Meeting those who had lived/worked in very different fields/eras - meant experiencing wisdom that is too often undervalued. This interaction across generations should be in the curriculum . I don't believe it can ever fail to be beneficial. As an ageing population - it surely has to be a natural progression. Perhaps a progression towards this as a ritual , ensuring a strengthening of connection between more of us. (This is definitely part of my rainbow..)
It was a fantastic pleasure to perform the resulting music/poerty at Freeword . It was very special - as a few of the people we chatted to at the centre , managed to come to the performance.
I would like to thank Suzanne (All Change - http://www.allchangearts.org/) and Felix (Nitro - http://www.nitro.co.uk/whats-on/now/generations-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow/) . Freeword is a wonderful venue (http://www.freewordonline.com/). A link to the video recording of the performance will be up soon.
Please checkout writer Yemisi Blake! at - http://www.yemisiblake.co.uk/
Saturday, 4 December 2010
ROBERT MITCHELL’S PANACEA – The Cusp
Seriously typified by two essential factors – the tremendous precision of the arrangements, and the suave accent (a “Norah Jones-meets-Olivia Newton-John” kind of timbre) of singer Deborah Jordan, who might not be a vocal heavyweight but performs the parts with conscientious sensitiveness – The Cusp is a brilliantly conceived album by pianist and composer Robert Mitchell, his Panacea ensemble featuring the talents of bassist Tom Mason, drummer Shaney Forbes, percussionist Hammadi Valdez, violinist Julian Ferraretto and cellist Ben Davis. The leader is not afraid of experimenting, able as he is to write scores that move quite fluidly through slanted sorts of string-scented, unevenly pulsating funk executed with technical refinement and taste to spare. The musicians’ responsiveness to the composer’s ideas is palpable, either in the most classically-oriented performances (“The Blessing”, or the splendid “Quantum”) or during the zigzagging unpredictability of the initial “Essence” and “Aura”, whose only fault is that of creating the illusion of being in front of a thoroughly investigational record. It’s not – and, truth be told, a minor loss of steam occurs after the halfway mark, a couple of segments recalling what we usually associate with a slightly worn-out pop/jazz orthodoxy. Nonetheless, the effort remains legitimate and largely gratifying (except for HKB Finn’s rap in the title track, one should add), Mitchell’s piano mastery keeping things far away from facileness (case in point, the sophisticated “Lucid Dreamt”). A CD that definitely deserves more than a superficial listen, gifted with unpretentious flair and fundamentally honest.
Friday, 19 November 2010
Vortex 12.11.10 - London Jazz Festival (UK tour - The Cusp)
Well the London Jazz Festival made it's grand entrance at the Vortex on Friday night in a fine way. Arriving at the venue there was a number of people queuing to get in. There was a air of enthusiasm amongst the crowd, after all, they were all there to see Robert Mitchell's Panacea.
Were they all in there in anticipation of finding that magical cure from a very wet and windy November week in London or for a revival of spirit after a hard weeks slog? Who knows, but certainly the word was out because inside this small venue there was not one inch of spare real-estate. The place was packed to the rafters which is always an encouraging sight as the Vortex receives no form of Arts Council funding or support as it is operated in the main by a team of dedicated volunteers. Here, here to them all.
I have seen Robert perform on many occasions but I was particularly interested in hearing this set in the close setting of the Vortex as he would be performing new material from his latest album The Cusp. My over all impression of Robert has always been one of an intent scientist and with five previous albums under his belt I was keen to hear what he and Panacea have been locked away concocting.
The band line-up was quite impressive creating the desirous feeling of bring it on! Consisting of a three piece string section Mandy Drummond - viola; Ian Burdge - cello; Julian Ferraretto - violin; Tom Mason - bass; Shaney Forbes - drums; Hammadi Valdez - percussion and Deborah Jordan on vocals to which Robert revealed that he and Deborah first worked together 20 years ago when both attending the same university, to which Deborah thanked him for cheekily giving a hint as to her age.
The band opened with a two song segue taken from the album and featuring the vocals of Deborah Jordan (Lucid Dreamt - Fortunately So). Both these songs penned by Robert bear his hallmark for grabbing/demanding the listeners attention and you could see the pointed concentration of the audience as Deborah delivers her almost lone vocals with a delicate interplay between Robert's piano. By the time Lucid Dreamt has segued into Fortunately So Panacea was in full swing (gently), everyone doing their part to form the intricate machinery of the compositions.
What a great opener, and judging from the audience response and general buzz you could see their pleasure that perhaps, they had found a musical cure to see them through the weekend.
With the ground work laid the next song Aura sets out a myriad of complex interplay where Deborah makes her vocal statement and is responded to by staccato strings with a steady heartbeat of chords from Robert. The drums and percussion providing the anchoring with an equally intricate Swiss clock like cross pulse. God help the musician that drops a note at this point, so I say to myself 'what have we here Professor Mitchell'. I take a gulp of wine, the tension releases into a piano solo cushioned by the string trio, but not for long as the piano solo get in it's stride and with each section of the band performing their individual rhythmic and harmonic function, the song is fully alive like a breathing entity.
The audience was clearly enraptured by the end of the first set and their applause expressed clearly their hearty appreciation for the medicine they had received.
With batteries recharged the second set began with a song called Essence again taken from the latest album. Starting with a percussion intro by Cuban percussionist Hammadi and Shaney on drums. Deborah kicks in with vocal lines over the rhythm which has now taken on the form of a hip-hop loop progressing to a full ensemble chorus with a slight funk feel about it, then back to vocals and the loop section. This time Robert plays a subtle pad sound on his Roland synth adding mood and texture eventually progressing to a unison piano and string motif. There is tension in the house again and the whole ensemble starts to bubble over the piano solo reaching a tumultuous crescendo with drama coming from all sections culminating in an abrupt end. With audience in uproar I take another gulp of wine!!
For arrangements as complex as those played by Panacea one would expect serious amounts of hard practice to deliver such note perfect precision performances, but it does not seam that hours and hours have been spent in the rehearsal room as according to Robert this was the first gig that cellist Ian Burdge had played with the band. If this isn't testament of the calibre of musicianship within Panacea then I don't know what is.
On the song called Quantum Shaney Forbes delivered some impressive cymbal and mallet work to introduce Robert's haunting piano. Shaney's use of time and dynamics showed a maturity beyond his age. It was like Elvin Jones incarnate. The subtle crescendos and space created for string and bass solos highlights both compositional and the arrangement skills of Robert. The audience on this one were totally hooked and there was not a single squeak from them. It was glorious to witness. Nice one Robert!
The next song, Flawless, brought us all back to planet earth with a rim and percussion loop like pulse, funky bass with piano, vocals and strings interweaving lines and at times taking on a very latin feel. I can see shoulders moving in the audience, hair completely let down by now.
The set concluded with a song from a previous album The Red Bridge, another mastery in compositional arrangement, with the solo section base around the chords of the Godfather Monk–'Round About Midnight. Monk may have been in the house but I could also here some Oscar Peterson in the prodigious piano lines of Mr. Mitchell.
Not fully satisfied, the audience stomped up an encore and were suitably pacified by Robert's solo performance on piano for the left hand. Yes the left hand! So after working us all to a frenzy he gives us The Glimpse (not from the new album) the chill pill, soma for the weekend.
Well based on this performance I would say the album is definitely worth a listen and gives great insight into the thoughts and giftedness of Robert Mitchell whom I would also state is a real gentleman with the manners of an alter-boy, you wouldn't want to be using any foul language in his presence 8))
I've just checked out his website www.robertmitchellmusic.com for dates of future Panacea performances, a must for those seeking a musical cure.
Roger Thomas - freelance review/photographer