Matt Mitchell, a 2015 recipient of the prestigious Doris Duke Impact Award, is one of the most in-demand pianists in jazz. As a member of Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, the Dave Douglas Quintet, Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Calls, John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, and the Darius Jones Quartet, among many others, he has played an integral role on a number of the most critically-acclaimed releases of the last few years.
Highly regarded for bringing contemporary classical music influences to his playing, his debut as a leader, Fiction (Pi 2013), a duo with drummer Ches Smith, was described by All About Jazz as “… huge quantities of brain candy, akin to a shot of adrenaline that will keep the willing listener on the edge of his or her seat.”
His new release, Vista Accumulation, spends much of its time contemplating the jazz tradition while continuing to expand on possibilities for interaction between composition and improvisation. While Fiction mostly included short pieces that were originally conceived as etudes to expand Mitchell’s pianistic facilities, the compositions on Vista Accumulation — eight of them spread out over two CDs — use longer forms. They flow with a narrative arc, constantly unfolding, alternately worrying over small repetitive gestures before expanding to wide vistas.
The detailed music consists as much of continuous, constantly evolving collective playing as it does a succession of solos. It has the feel of contemporary classical music, with references to Morton Feldman and Harrison Birtwistle, and yet there are several ballad-like moments, as well as fractured echoes of the blues. The New York Times, who in 2011 named him one of “four young jazz pianists on the rise,” calls the music “… a bold signature for [Mitchell] as a composer and bandleader, one rooted in avant-garde traditions that encompass not only improvising pianists like Andrew Hill and Keith Jarrett but also classical modernists like Anton Webern and Charles Ives.”
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