Roscoe Mitchell

Roscoe Mitchell - © Pasquale Ottaiano - ( ; Roscoe Mitchell at the Pomigliano Jazz Festival on July 15th, 2005

born on 3/8/1940 in Chicago, IL, United States

Roscoe Mitchell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Roscoe Mitchell

Roscoe Mitchell (b. August 3, 1940 in Chicago, Illinois) is an African American composer, jazz instrumentalist and educator, mostly known for being "a technically superb—if idiosyncratic—saxophonist."[1] He has been called "one of the key figures" in avant-garde jazz who has been "at the forefront of modern music" for the past thirty years.[2][3] He continues "to be a major figure."[1] He has even been called a "super musician"[3][4] and the New York Times has mentioned that he "qualifies as an iconoclast."[5]


Early life

Mitchell grew up in the Chicago, Illinois area where he played saxophone and clarinet at around age twelve. His family was always involved in music with many different styles playing in the house when he was a child as well as having a secular music background. His brother, Norman, in particular was the one who introduced Mitchell to jazz.[6] While attending Englewood High School in Chicago, he furthered his study of the clarinet.[7] In the 1950s, he joined the United States Army, during which time he was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany and played in a band with fellow saxophonists Albert Ayler and Rubin Cooper, the latter of which Mitchell commented "took me under his wing and taught me a lot of stuff."[6] He also studied under the first clarinetist of the Heidelberg Symphony while in Germany.[6] Mitchell returned to the United States in the early 1960s, relocated to the Chicago area, and performed in a band with Wilson Junior College undergraduates Malachi Favors (bass), Joseph Jarman, Henry Threadgill, and Anthony Braxton (all saxophonists). Mitchell also studied with Muhal Richard Abrams and played in his band, the Muhal Richard Abrams' Experimental Band, starting in 1961.

AACM and the Art Ensemble of Chicago

In 1965, Mitchell was one of the first members of the non-profit organization Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) along with Jodie Christian (piano), Steve McCall (drums), and Phil Cohran (composer). The following year Mitchell, Lester Bowie (trumpet), Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre (tenor saxophone), Favors, Lester Lashley (trombone), and Alvin Fielder (drums), recorded their first studio album, Sound. The album was "a departure from the more extroverted work of the New York-based free jazz players" due in part to the band recording with "unorthodox devices" such as toys and bicycle horns.[1]

From 1967 Mitchell, Bowie, Favors and, on occasion, Jarman performed as the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble, then the Art Ensemble, and finally in 1969 were billed as the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The group included Phillip Wilson on drums for short span before he joined Paul Butterfield's band. The group lived and performed in Europe from 1969 to 1971, though they arrived without any percussionist after Wilson left. To fill the void, Mitchell commented that they "evolved into doing percussion ourselves."[6] The band did eventually get a percussionist, Don Moye, who Mitchell had played with before and was living in Europe at that time. For performances, the band often wore brilliant African costumes and painted their faces.[8] The Art Ensemble of Chicago have been described as becoming "possibly the most highly acclaimed jazz band" in the 1970s and 1980s.[1]

Creative Arts Collective and beyond

Mitchell and the others returned to the States in 1971. After having been back in Chicago for three years, Mitchell then established the Creative Arts Collective (CAC) in 1974 that had a similar musical aesthetic to the AACM.[3] The group was based in East Lansing, Michigan and frequently used the facilities at Michigan State University. Mitchell also formed the Sound Ensemble in the early 1970s, an "outgrowth of the CAC" in his words, that consisted mainly of Mitchell, Hugh Ragin, Jaribu Shahid, Tani Tabbal, and Spencer Barefield.[3]

In the 1990s, Mitchell started to experiment in classical music with such composers/artists such as Pauline Oliveros, Thomas Buckner, and Borah Bergman, the latter two of which formed a popular trio with Mitchell called Trio Space. Buckner was also part of another group with Mitchell and Gerald Oshita called Space in the late 1990s. He then conceived the Note Factory in 1992 with various old and new collaborators as another evolution of the Sound Ensemble.

He lived in the area of Madison, Wisconsin[4] and performed with a re-assembled Art Ensemble of Chicago. In 1999, the band was hit hard with the death of Bowie, but Mitchell fought off the urge to recast his position in the group, stating simply "You can't do that" in an interview with editor-in-chief Fred Jung.[6] The band continued on despite the loss.

Mitchell has made a point of working with younger musicians in various ensembles and combinations, many of whom weren't yet born when the first Art Ensemble recordings were made. Mainly from Chicago, these players include trumpeter Corey Wilkes, bassist Karl E. H. Seigfried, and drummer Isaiah Spencer.

In 2007, Mitchell was named Darius Milhaud Chair of Composition at Mills College in Oakland, California, where he currently lives.[9] Mitchell was chosen by Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel to perform at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in March 2012 in Minehead, England.[10]


The following are referenced from Mitchell's biography at the official AACM website.[11]


  • The International Jazz Critics Poll
  • Down Beat Magazine
    • "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition"
    • Best Jazz Group (Established) - Art Ensemble of Chicago
    • Record of the Year Nonaah
  • Jazz Personality of the Year, City of Madison, Wisconsin
  • "Madison Music Legend" ("Madison" magazine)
  • Certificate of Appreciation (St. Louis Public Schools Role Model Experiences Program)
  • Honorary Citizen of Atlanta, Georgia
  • Outstanding Service to Jazz Education Award (National Association of Jazz Educators)
  • Certificate of Appreciation, Art Ensemble of Chicago (Smithsonian Institution)
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Image Award


  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Arts Midwest Jazz Masters
  • John Cage Award for Music-Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, Inc.
  • Michigan State University matching grant
  • Minnesota Composer's Forum
  • Meet the Composer, Cultural Series Grant, Center for International Performance and Exhibition, Chicago IL
  • Comnicut Foundation
  • Wisconsin Arts Board
  • Institut de Recherche at Coordination Acoustique Musique, Paris, France
  • Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission Project Grant, Madison Committee for the Arts
  • Madison Festival of the Lakes Grant.


Mitchell has taught at various institutions throughout the United States, including the University of Illinois, the University of WisconsinMadison, and the California Institute of the Arts.[11] He currently teaches at Mills College in Oakland, California.[12]


with Art Ensemble of Chicago

Title Year Label
Sound - Roscoe Mitchell Sextet 1966 Delmark
Old/Quartet - Roscoe Mitchell 1967 Nessa
Numbers 1 & 2 - Lester Bowie 1967 Nessa
Congliptious - Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble 1968 Nessa
A Jackson in Your House 1969 Actuel
Tutankhamun 1969 Freedom
The Spiritual 1969 Freedom
People in Sorrow 1969 Pathé-Marconi
Message to Our Folks 1969 Actuel
Reese and the Smooth Ones 1969 Actuel
Eda Wobu 1969 JMY
Certain Blacks 1970 America
Go Home 1970 Galloway
Chi-Congo 1970 Paula
Les Stances a Sophie 1970 Pathé-Marconi
Live in Paris 1970 Freedom
Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass 1970 America
Phase One 1971 America
Live at Mandell Hall 1972 Delmark
Bap-Tizum 1972 Atlantic
Fanfare for the Warriors 1973 Atlantic
Kabalaba 1974 AECO
Nice Guys 1978 ECM
Live in Berlin 1979 West Wind
Full Force 1980 ECM
Urban Bushmen 1980 ECM
Among the People 1980 Praxis
The Complete Live in Japan 1984 DIW
The Third Decade 1984 ECM
Naked 1986 DIW
Ancient to the Future 1987 DIW
The Alternate Express 1989 DIW
Art Ensemble of Soweto 1990 DIW
America - South Africa 1990 DIW
Thelonious Sphere Monk with Cecil Taylor 1990 DIW
Dreaming of the Masters Suite 1990 DIW
Live at the 6th Tokyo Music Joy with Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy 1991 DIW
Fundamental Destiny with Don Pullen 1991 AECO
Salutes the Chicago Blues Tradition 1993 AECO
Coming Home Jamaica 1996 Atlantic
Urban Magic 1997 Musica Jazz
Tribute to Lester 2001 ECM
Reunion 2003 Around Jazz
The Meeting 2003 Pi
Sirius Calling 2004 Pi
Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City 2006 Pi

Solo works and other ensembles

  • 1973 Solo Saxophone Concerts Sackville
  • 1975 Quartet Sackville
  • 1976 Nonaah Nessa
  • 1977 Duets with Anthony Braxton Sackville
  • 1979 Sketches From Bamboo Moers
  • 1980 Snurdy McGurdy and Her Dancin' Shoes Nessa
  • 1981 3 x 4 Eye Black Saint
  • 1983 Roscoe Mitchell and the Sound and Space Ensembles Black Saint
  • 1984 An Interesting Breakfast Conversation 1750 Arch
  • 1986 The Flow of Things Black Saint
  • 1986 Live at the Muhle Hunziken Cecma Records
  • 1987 Live at the Knitting Factory Black Saint
  • 1988 Live in Detroit Cecma
  • 1989 After Fallen Leaves Silkheart Records
  • 1990 Duets & Solos Black Saint
  • 1990 Songs in the Wind Victo Records
  • 1992 This Dance Is for Steve McCall Black Saint
  • 1992 Four Compositions Lovely Music
  • 1994 Hey Donald Delmark
  • 1994 Sound Songs Delmark
  • 1994 First Meeting Knitting Factory
  • 1994 Pilgrimage Lovely Music
  • 1996 Day and the Night Dizim
  • 1998 More Cutouts Cecma
  • 1999 Nine to Get Ready ECM
  • 1999 In Walked Buckner Delmark
  • 2001 8 O'Clock: Two Improvisations Mutable Music
  • 2002 Song for My Sister Pi Recordings
  • 2004 Solo 3 Mutable
  • 2005 Chicago Duos First Look/Southport
  • 2005 Turn RogueArt
  • 2006 No Side Effects RogueArt
  • 2006 The Bad Guys Around Jazz
  • 2007 Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3 with Evan Parker (ECM)
  • 2009 The Solo Concert - AECO [composed of solo performances from many concerts performed in the 1970s.]
  • 2009 Contact - RogueArt
  • 2010 Spectrum - Mutablemusic
  • 2010 Far Side - with The Note Factory (ECM)
  • 2011 Numbers - RogueArt
  • 2013 Duets with Tyshawn Sorey and Special Guest Hugh Ragin[13]

As sideman

With Anthony Braxton

  • Creative Orchestra Music 1976 (Arista, 1976)

With Evan Parker

  • Boustrophedon (ECM, 2004)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Chris Kelsey. [Roscoe Mitchell at All Music Guide Roscoe Mitchell at Allmusic]. Retrieved on 2006-12-29.
  2. The Penguin Guide to Jazz by Richard Cook, Brian Morton, et al. pg 916 eighth edition
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Jack Gold (January 8, 2004). Roscoe Mitchell: In Search of the Super Musician. Retrieved on 2006-12-29.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lazaro Vega (August 25, 2005). A conversation with Roscoe Mitchell. Archived from the original on 2006-08-13. Retrieved on 2006-12-29.
  5. Jazz: Roscoe Mitchell by Jon Pareles, New York Times, August 25, 1983
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Fred Jung. A Fireside Chat with Roscoe Mitchell (second). Retrieved on 2006-12-29.
  7. Roscoe Mitchell: In Search of the Super Musician by Jack Gold,, October 23, 2003
  8. Celeste Sunderland. Roscoe Mitchell: Opening Doors. Retrieved on 2006-12-29.
  9. Roscoe Mitchell Named Darius Milhaud Chair In Composition At Mills College. Retrieved on 2008-03-31.
  10. ATP curated by Jeff Mangum
  11. 11.0 11.1 Roscoe Mitchell..... Composer, Multi-Instrumentalist, Educator. Archived from the original on 2007-07-30. Retrieved on 2006-12-29.
  13. Duets with Tyshawn Sorey and Special Guest Hugh Ragin

External links

  • All About Jazz: Roscoe Mitchell: In Search of the Super Musician Posted: 2004-01-08
  • Roscoe Mitchell interview by Jason Gross (May 1998)
  • Lovely Music Artist: Roscoe Mitchell
  • AACM: Roscoe Mitchell
This page was last modified 19.04.2013 19:20:20

This article uses material from the article Roscoe Mitchell from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.