AMN Reviews: Matt Mitchell – Phalanx Ambassadors (2019; Pi Recordings)

Pianist Matt Mitchell brings a steady cerebralism to every project that he is a member of, whether as composer, side-man, or leader. His recent work with Dan Weiss, Tim Berne, Anna Webber, and Brian Krock, to just name a few, are stellar examples of what he is capable of in various roles. Thus, when he releases a new album, giving it a listen or two is immediately on the agenda.

Unlike 2017’s A Pouting Grimace, which was a large-ensemble effort, here Mitchell pares it down to Miles Okazaki on guitar, Patricia Brennan on vibes and marimba, Kim Cass on double bass, the great Kate Gentile on drums, and of course himself on piano. But even with a group of this size, Mitchell coaxes out an unusually dense and rich sound.

Phalanx Ambassadors hits the ground running with Stretch Goal, a propulsive piece lead by Mitchell and Gentile with Cass giving his bass a brutal workout. Mitchell provides busy chording and tense runs, joined by Brennan in the latter. This is followed by the short Taut Pry, where Okazaki’s off-kilter approach is reminiscent of Thinking Plague, a group in which Mitchell was a member.

As the album progresses and the tracks get longer and more diverse, the tempo and intensity ramps down a notch or two. Mitchell has surrounded himself with formidable partners and each musician is given room to explore. Another highlight is Be Irreparable, which has a rhythmic pattern so involved that just listening to Mitchell, Cass, and Gentile work their way through it would be enough. But Brennan joins in with contrapuntal lines, leading to an information-rich but controlled apex.

The hardest thing about trying to digest this recording is placing it in some form of historical context. Modern creative jazz with classical etudes and informed by progressive rock? Perhaps. Regardless, it is a compelling and singular workout for the ears. Comparisons are difficult but recent big-band releases by Weiss and Braxton are good places to start.

Prediction: Phalanx Ambassadors will score high on many best-of-2019 lists, including mine.

670 Tapes from Cabrillo Music Festival to be Digitized

Source: UC Santa Cruz.

UC Santa Cruz has received a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to digitize 670 audio recordings featuring a wide variety of works performed at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music from 1964 to 1990.

The recordings were originally made by Berkeley community radio station KPFA. They were later transferred to the Bay Area music non-profit organization, Other Minds, which in 2016 donated its archives to UC Santa Cruz’s Special Collections & Archives at McHenry Library. The reel-to-reel tape format is particularly susceptible to degradation, and this grant ensures that the recordings will be preserved for future use.

The project is scheduled to be completed in April 2020. The recordings will be described in a finding aid on the Online Archive of California and made available to patrons on-site and remotely via the Library’s Digital Asset Management System. It is anticipated that they will be an essential resource for musicologists, historians, composers, and students.

Ojai Music Festival 2019 Schedule 

Source: Ojai Music Festival.

June 6

5:30-6:00pm | Libbey Park Gazebo
JOHN LUTHER ADAMS The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies Part I
Steven Schick, percussion

7:30-10:30pm | Libbey Bowl
STRAVINSKY The Rake’s Progress
Equilibrium Artists: Aphrodite Patoulidou, soprano; Yannis Francois, bass; Elgan Llyr Thomas, tenor; Fleur Barron, mezzo-soprano; Antoin Herrera-Lopez Kessel, bass; James Way, tenor | LUDWIG | Los Robles Master Chorale | Edo Frenkel, harpsichord | Linus Fellbom, Director and Lighting Design | Barbara Hannigan, conductor

June 7

8:00-9:00am | Ojai Art Center
CLARA IANOTTA dead wasps in the jam-jar (iii) US Premiere
TYSHAWN SOREY Everything Changes, Nothing Changes
JACK Quartet

11:00am-1:00pm | Libbey Bowl
Part I 11:00-11:45am
JOHN ZORN The Alchemist
ZORN Hexentarot
ZORN Ghosts
ZORN The Aristos
Stephen Gosling, piano | JACK Quartet

Part II 12:15-1:00pm
JOHN ZORN Ouroboros
ZORN The Unseen
ZORN Necronomicon
JACK Quartet | Jay Campbell. cello | Alexa Ciciretti, cell0

2:00- 3:00pm |Ojai Presbyterian Church
OJAI FILM: Zorn II (2016-2018)
Zorn II is a film by Mathieu Amalric, who captures the energy of John Zorn’s music, his focused musicianship and his constellation of musicians rehearsing, performing, and searching…all around the world.

5:30-6:00pm | Libbey Park Gazebo
JOHN LUTHER ADAMS The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies Part II
Steven Schick, percussion

7:30-10:00pm | Libbey Bowl
Part I 7:30-8:30pm
DEBUSSY Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut
RAVEL Une barque sur l’ocean
MESSIAEN Un reflet dans le vent
SCHOENBERG String Quartet No. 2
Barbara Hannigan, soprano | Stephen Gosling, piano | JACK Quartet

Part II 9:00–10:00pm
SCHOENBERG Verklärte Nacht
VIVIER Lonely Child
Aphrodite Patoulidou, soprano | LUDWIG | Barbara Hannigan, conductor

June 8

8:00-9:00am | Zalk Theatre
Steven Schick, percussion | Ross Karre and William Brent, video and sound design

11:00am-1pm Libbey Bowl
Part I 11:00-11:30
A tribute to Oliver Knussen with music by Oliver Knussen
KNUSSEN Masks for flute with wind chimes
KNUSSEN Autumnal for violin and piano
KNUSSEN Sonja’s Lullaby
KNUSSEN Cantata for oboe and string trio
KNUSSEN Eccentric Melody for cello
KNUSSEN Ophelia’s Last Dance
KNUSSEN Study for Metamorphosisfor solo bassoon
LUDWIG | Stephen Gosling, piano | Jay Campbell, cello

Part II 12:00-1:00pm
RACHMANINOFF The Isle of the Dead (arr. by Thomas Beijer)
MARK-ANTHONY TURNAGE Twice Through the Heart
Kate Howden, mezzo-soprano | LUDWIG | Edo Frenkel, conductor

2:00- 3:30pm | Ojai Presbyterian Church
OJAI FILM: Music is Music – film by Mathieu Amalric | Bout dun Monde – film by Mathieu Amalric | Taking Risks – Accentus documentary on Equilibrium (US premiere)

5:30-6:00pm Libbey Park Gazebo
JOHN LUTHER ADAMS The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies Part III
Steven Schick, percussion

7:30-10:15pm Libbey Bowl
Part I 7:30-8:00pm
JOHN ZORN Jumalattaret
Barbara Hannigan, soprano | Stephen Gosling, piano

Part II 8:15-9:00pm
RITES OF PASSAGE: Folk songs from around the world
Equilibrium Artists | Edo Frenkel, piano

Part III 9:30-10:15pm
GRISEY Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil
Barbara Hannigan, soprano | LUDWIG | Steven Schick, conductor

June 9

8:00-9:00am | Zalk Theatre
CATHERINE LAMB String Quartet (US Premiere)
JACK Quartet

11:00am-1:15pm | Libbey Bowl
Part I 11:00-11:45am
WALTON Façade: An Entertainment
LUDWIG | Barbara Hannigan, speaker

Part II 12:15-1:15pm
Festival artists

4:30-6:30pm | Libbey Bowl
STRAVINSKY Pulcinella (complete)
HAYDN Symphony No. 49 “La Passione”
GERSHWIN Girl Crazy Suite (arranged by Bill Elliott)
Kate Howden, mezzo-soprano | James Way, tenor | Antoin Herrera-Lopez Kessel, bass | LUDWIG | Barbara Hannigan, soprano and conductor

ECM Records Artists on Tour in June

Source: ECM Records. Highlights:

Jack DeJohnette / Ravi Coltrane / Matt Garrison
June 15 New York, NY (Central Park Summerstage)

Carla Bley TRIOS
w/Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow
June 2 Healdsburg, CA (Healdsburg Festival)

Ralph Towner
June 2 Santa Cruz, CA (Kuumbwa Jazz Festival)

Heiner Goebbels
June 3-9 New York, NY (Park Avenue Armory)
Everything That Happened And Would Happen

Andrew Cyrille
June 11 Brooklyn, NY (Spectrum)
Vision Fest with Wadada Leo Smith and Brandon Ross

Meredith Monk
June 11 – 12 &14 Los Angeles, CA (Disney Hall) – ATLAS

Vijay Iyer
June 22 Princeton, NJ (McCarter Theater) – Sextet
June 29 Baltimore, MD (Museum of Art, Sculpture Garden)

Vijay Iyer / Craig Taborn
June 27 Montreal, PQ (Montreal Jazz Festival – Gesú)

Ethan Iverson Quartet
June 28 – 29 New York, NY (Village Vanguard)