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.
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 music is performed by his quartet, made up of some of the most respected musicians on New York’s cutting-edge jazz scene: Chris Speed produces a soft timbre on tenor saxophone that harkens back to Lester Young and a gorgeous tone on clarinet while playing with a thoroughly modern sensibility.
Bassist Chris Tordini – who has appeared on the Pi Recordings releases Oblique I (2011) and Alloy (2014) from drummer Tyshawn Sorey – plays with a huge, warm tone and an insightful ability to act as the glue for all the music’s parts.
Drummer Dan Weiss – who released his own critically acclaimed Fourteen on Pi in 2014 and plays with the likes of Rudresh Mahanthappa, Lee Konitz, and Dave Binney – plays with great spontaneity and a highly varied compositional sense.
Mitchell’s own supremely inventive playing encompasses a wide vocabulary of influences that are impossible to pinpoint. Paying unusual attention to dynamics of touch and exhibiting his hallmark of rhythmic and harmonic convolution, every one of his solos is the sound of constant surprise.
Etched with lyricism and emotion, Vista Accumulation affords a whole new view on Mitchell’s musical mastery.