Roscoe Mitchell & The Note Factory
The Bad Guys

(Il Manifesto)

A few years after an announcement along the lines of "to be released soon", I had lost any hopes of ever listening to this CD, a live recording from the "Jazz By The Sea" Festival in Fano, Italy, made during the Italian summer 2000 tour that had seen Roscoe Mitchell in the company of The Note Factory, the big line-up that Mitchell himself has called "an ensemble of improvising musicians with an orchestral range". The music featured here is indeed of a very high quality - it stands alongside highly praised albums such as Nine To Get Ready (1999) and Song For My Sister (2002). The CD is released as part of a budget line (8 euros - about $8) by an Italian newspaper. Granted, the recorded sound will never get nominated for a Grammy, but it's more than adequate to enjoy - and help one understand - the music. But if you ever happen to see this CD you're invited to please look past the booklet, infested as it is with typos, factual mistakes and bad grammar.

I had the opportunity to catch The Note Factory at the Roccella Ionica Festival on August 26 2000. Here the line-up is almost the same, with just some changes in the rhythm section which don't seem to be of much importance for the final result; but in Fano Leo Smith sat on trumpet - he was not present at the concert in Roccella. Here are the two songs written by Stephen Rush that I had liked a lot: the slow beguine of Choro Poro Merilina, with a nice Spencer Barefield solo on guitar; and the funky title track, with a beautiful solo by Mr. Mitchell himself; those are the "easy, enjoyable" moments - but of a very high quality - that in a way function as a balance to the leader's own compositions, which definitely require (and definitely repay) attentive listening. No "solos" on those: we are deep inside the concept of scored, guided improvisation as a group composition "in the moment", where every member's contribution is finalized to the whole. Down In The Basement and the closing track, That Would Be Fine (but why such an early fade? there was still time on the CD...) are in the vein of the "Cards" series, with its slow breathing and attention to instrumental colour. The most difficult tracks (alas, those not-so-well served by the quality of the recording) are Oh, See How They Run To L.A. and Do That Dance Called The Tangler, which maybe really need to be heard in concert in order to fully express their great power; here we are definitely in the The Flow Of Things territory - and it's funny to notice how much Leo Smith's trumpet work on these two gives them a flavour of vintage "free jazz".

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2003 | March 15, 2003