Muhal Richard Abrams / George Lewis / Roscoe Mitchell


by Daniel Spicer

17 May 2007


Most music—even the most liberated improv—relies on signposts, points of reference by which the listener can navigate their way through the sound and make sense of the information on offer. This is not most music. And these three veterans of the legendary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians are not ordinary improvisers. Abrams is a pianist who has done more than most to push the boundaries of jazz way beyond the notion of swing or melody. Lewis is a trombonist and visionary electronics pioneer. Meanwhile, Mitchell is a founder of one of the most enduring of all avant-garde jazz outfits, the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Here, they follow the strict dictates of the AACM and investigate the possibilities of “open improvisation”, a form of musical communication that values openness, trust and restraint—and lies in distinct opposition to the sometimes egotistic blustering of “free improvisation”. The result is a challenging, almost disturbingly unfamiliar musical terrain full of extended pauses, suddenly spurting ideas, ghostly micro-sounds and subliminal textures, with Lewis’s laptop processes taking the more traditional instrumentation and pushing it into odd, lunar regions. In essence, these three masters with a combined age of a couple of centuries have created some of the most thrillingly modern music on the planet today.



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