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Robert Mitchell, The Thread ****

Robert Mitchell is one of the UK's greatest living jazz pianists and in such a list would be placed somewhere near the top. When the Ilfordian played with the great Matana Roberts, Seb Rochford and Tom Mason in the Vortex back in 2010 that was an …

Published: 4 Apr 2021. Updated: 9 days.

Robert Mitchell is one of the UK's greatest living jazz pianists and in such a list would be placed somewhere near the top. When the Ilfordian played with the great Matana Roberts, Seb Rochford and Tom Mason in the Vortex back in 2010 that was an occasion when Roberts seemed to challenge him to through compose some sort of apposite harmonic episode in response to her jagged lines which he did with some aplomb. Rochford not to be outdone, as he usually knows exactly how to, played the drums as if he himself was playing the piano (the erstwhile Son of Kemet fundamentally knowing that the piano is itself a percussion instrument, think the Wilmer-esque notion of the piano as ''eighty-eight tuned drums.'')

Mitchell knows that too. But that was only one time and it's always stimulating to hear him whether in a Cecil Taylor-like mood or not. Here it's not like that style at all. Intimate away from a venue The Thread is instead a series of vignettes styled more in his own head space as a composer beyond any other style than his own. Some of the pieces are really brief but as usual with Mitchell they say a lot and you need to take it all in. However 'Flicker' is more than a lick, it finds an inner engine; 'Halo' spreads out more; 'To Keep Your Soul Intact' seems to return to the core atmosphere of the album, its introspective lost-in-thought dreaming a daytime vision. 'Once the Ink Dries' keeps the pervasive atmosphere intact.

Returning to The Thread over the last few days since release again and again is rewarding and I'll be returning more in the weeks and months ahead. Mitchell nonetheless remains an oblique improviser. You won't necessarily solve the puzzle of his sound because that is not the challenge. However, you have to listen hard to what he provides. And it's worth doing so.

As a zeitgeist album at the moment (this terrible ongoing situation for the mind, body and soul when live music continues to be absent making life harder than ever) there is no finer cure and tonic. Mitchell never shirks away from reality, eschewing random escapism within the prism of his abstractionism. SG. Buy via this link
Robert Mitchell photo: Carl Hyde

Tags: Album / EP reviews

Pizzarelli plays Metheny

Interesting one, slightly counterintuitive in a way and so very fascinating partly because of this, news that top class swing, retro, mainstream star seven-stringed guitarist and proud New Jerseyite John Pizzarelli is to release a themed deep dive …

Published: 3 Apr 2021. Updated: 19 days.

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Interesting one, slightly counterintuitive in a way and so very fascinating partly because of this, news that top class swing, retro, mainstream star seven-stringed guitarist and proud New Jerseyite John Pizzarelli is to release a themed deep dive into the work of jazz-rock, occasionally avant, even contemporary-classical, guitar everyman, composer Pat Metheny on a new album titled Better Days Ahead (Solo Guitar Takes on Pat Metheny).

Tracks are: 'Better Days Ahead'; 'Spring Ain’t Here'; 'April Wind/Phase Dance'; 'September Fifteenth'; 'James'; 'Antonia'; '(It’s Just) Talk'; 'Letter from Home'; 'If I Could'; 'Last Train Home'; 'From this Place'; 'The Bat'; 'Farmer’s Trust.'

Metheny reference points are: 'Better Days Ahead' appeared on Letter From Home, 1989; 'Spring Ain’t Here' also on Letter from Home; 'April Wind/Phase Dance' Pat Metheny Group, 1978; 'September Fifteenth' As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, 1981; 'James' Offramp, 1982; 'Antonia' Secret Story, 1992; '(It’s Just) Talk' Still Life (Talking), 1987; 'Letter from Home' Letter From Home; 'If I Could' First Circle, 1984; 'Last Train Home' on Still Life (Talking); 'From this Place' the most recent choice and on From This Place, 2020; 'The Bat' 80/81, 1980; 'Farmer’s Trust' Travels, 1983.

I've only heard Pizzarelli play live once, when he appeared during a residency at Feinstein's in the Regency, New York, in the spring of 2003 which was a very swinging occasion and when he was joined by his brother Martin on double bass, wife singer Jessica Molaskey and dad the great Bucky who passed away last year. The highlight that night was when Pizzarelli sang 'I like Jersey Best'. JP used to play London a lot, typically at venues such as the much missed Pizza on the Park in Knightsbridge.

Issuing label is Ghostlight who note Metheny's positive reaction: “To say it was flattering to have John address these tunes is an understatement. I had no idea that it was all leading to this excellent solo guitar recording of my tunes.” SG Out on 16 April. The beautifully captured '(It's Just) Talk' is streaming. John Pizzarelli, photo: YouTube