[6 December 2010]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
In 1966, Roscoe Mitchell recorded a groundbreaking free improvisation album called Sound. Over 40 years later, the granddaddy of the Chicago avant-garde is still exploring the abstract nature of sound with acoustic instruments. Although Mitchell has recorded under the Note Factory name before, Far Side is a far less jazzy affair than its predecessors. For apt comparisons, those familiar with Mitchell’s back catalog should keep Nonaah or Four Compositions in mind.
Mitchell assembles quite the band for this go-round. The presence of Corey Wilkes, Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer and Harrison Bankhead, among others, ensures a comfortable mix of tried veterans and humble understudies. Since Far Side explores such thick, impressionistic territory, it may be forever impenetrable to some. For those faithful to the Art Ensemble of Chicago and beyond, Roscoe Mitchell’s experimental sound will still be a welcome challenge.