Album Notes



Performed by the Roscoe Mitchell New Chamber Ensemble
Roscoe Mitchell: saxophones, winds and percussion
Thomas Buckner: voice
Joseph Kubera: piano
Vartan Manoogian: violin

The study of improvisation has become increasingly important to me during the 1990’s. I am especially grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the musicians of the trio Space (Thomas Buckner and Gerald Oshita) and the New Chamber Ensemble (Thomas Buckner, Joseph Kubera and Vartan Manoogian).

This recording is dedicated to the memory of Gerald Oshita.

O the sun comes up-up-up in the opening
Trio for Baritone Voice, Violin and Alto Saxophone
Music: Roscoe Mitchell
Poem: e. e. cummings

This composition is the transcription of a trio originally scored for tenor voice, alto and baritone saxophones. The melodic structure is derived from the Card Catalogue, a series of works that I’ve titled Scored Improvisations. These methods were developed to address problems that occur in either solo or larger group improvisations. This composition includes both notated and improvised sections.

O the sun comes up-up-up in the opening

sky(the all the

any merry every pretty each

bird sings birds sing

gay-be-gay because today’s today)the

romp cries i and the me purrs

you and the gentle

who-horns says-does moo-woo

(the prance with the

three white its stimpstamps)

the grintgrunt wugglewiggle

champychumpchomps yes

the speckled strut begins to scretch and


and scritch(while

the no-she-yes-he fluffies tittle

tattle did-he-does-she)& the

ree ray rye roh

rowster shouts


“O the sun comes up-up-up in the opening” from COMPLETE POEMS, 1904-1962, by E.E. Cummings, Edited by George J. Firmage, is used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1961, 1989, 1991 by the Trustees for the E.E. Cummings Trust.

* * *

he didn’t give up/he was taken
Quartet for Baritone Voice, Violin, Alto Saxophone and Piano
Music: Henry Threadgill
Poem: Thulani Davis

A poem about a saxophone player who won’t give up despite the “opposition of people and the elements.”

he didn’t give up/he was taken

he was possessed

he was only of the night

his back flew him up & down

up & down/he was gone

and only of the night

darkness & the powers of music had taken him

he did not know/a thing

god just kept leaping out his fingers

& his back bent

threw him back & forth

his mouth was all a singin

the night had taken all but sound

up & down/he was thrown

out his belly/pushed out his back

he belonged to the night

with only a faint sensation of blessing

a heat enclosing his head

like giant hands pressing

even the rain took him

gleaming in the slant

sound still leapt

a shaft of rain he stormed

he flooded & leapt upon his demons

sound punished/sound confessed

sound made a balance

of the slipping/swishing rain

he bent & stood up against

the rain had taken everyone

there was only night black

black gleaming rain

& the gutter & the ecstasy of his screaming

his teeth chewed the air

& spit it out night black

a man a man a man a man

a man a man a man a man

“He Didn’t Give Up He Was Taken” from All the Renegade Ghosts Rise, by Thulani Davis, Anemone Press, is used with the permission of the author. Copyright © Thulani Davis.

* * *

Sound Pictures, No. 3
Solo for Winds and Percussion
Music: Roscoe Mitchell

These solos are examples of various sound combinations molded into a unified structure.

* * *

Alternate Express
Trio for Baritone Voice, Violin and Soprano Saxophone
Music: Roscoe Mitchell

The Alternate Express involves notated and improvised sections. This work was inspired by the Icelandic composer, Àskell Másson.

* * *

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Canto I, Verses 13, 14 and 15.
Quartets for Baritone Voice, Violin, Percussion, Alto Saxophone, Flute and Piano.
Music: Roscoe Mitchell
Poem: Lord Byron


But when the sun was sinking in the sea,

He seized his harp, which he at times could string,

And strike, albeit with untaught melody,

When deem’d he no strange ear was listening:

And now his fingers o’er it did he fling,

And tuned his farewell in the dim twilight.

While flew the vessel on her snowy wing,

And fleeing shores receded from his sight,

Thus to the elements he por’d his last “Good Night.”


On, on the vessel flies, the land is gone,

And winds are rude in Biscay’s sleepless bay.

Four days are sped, but with the fifth anon,

New shores descried make every bosom gay;

And Cintra’s mountain greets them on their way,

And Tagus dashing onward to the deep,

His fabled golden tribute bent to pay;

And soon on board the Lusian pilots leap,

And steer’twixt fertile shores where yet few rustics reap.


Oh, Christ, it is a goodly sight to see

What heaven hath done for this delicious land!

What fruits of fragrance blush on every tree!

What goodly prospects o’er the hills expand!

But man would mar them with an impious hand:

And when the Almighty lifts his fiercest scourge

‘Gainst those who most transgress his high command,

With treble vengeance will his hot shafts urge

Gaul’s locust host, and earth from fellest foemen purge.

While verse 14 is completely notated, verses 13 and 15 are improvisations based on predetermined parameters of time and pitch.

* * *

To Styles Holloway and Bubba Barnes
Trio for Violin, Soprano Saxophone and Piano
Music: Roscoe Mitchell
This composition was inspired by an avant-garde jazz bass player and a blues drummer.

* * *

Sound Pictures, No. 4
Solo for Winds and Percussion
Music: Roscoe Mitchell

* * *

Spirits Among Stones
Quartet for Baritone Voice, Violin, Soprano Saxophone and Piano
Music: Roscoe Mitchell
Poem: Joseph Jarman

Could have spirits among stones

Uppity the force of becoming

What art was made to return

The vain-ness of our pipes smoking near fountains

The church pronouncing the Hell

Of where we are

Spirits Among Stones is an excerpt from a poem written by Joseph Jarman entitled Noncognitive Aspects of the City. Used with the permission of the author. Copyright © Joseph Jarman.

Through his participation in the establishment of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and as a founding member of the world renowned Art Ensemble of Chicago, ROSCOE MITCHELL was instrumental in creating the body of musical literature that ushered in the post-Coltrane period. Mr. Mitchell has received numerous awards and grants including composition grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Wisconsin Arts Board and Vilas Foundation (University of Wisconsin); the Arts Midwest Jazz Masters Award; a research grant from the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in Paris, and the Downbeat Record of the Year for his 1977 recording of Nonaah. Mr. Mitchell has taught composition and improvisation classes at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana, the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, the Banff Center and the Creative Music Studio, as well as several workshops at universities throughout the United States and Europe.

Roscoe Mitchell’s innovations as a solo performer, his role in the resurrection of long neglected woodwind instruments of extreme register, and his reassertion of the composer into what has traditionally been an improvisational form have placed him at the forefront of contemporary music for over twenty-five years.

THOMAS BUCKNER has won a special niche in the history of 20th Century Western music as a leading performer and producer of avant-garde work. A baritone with a wide range of experience in a variety of musical genres, he is best known for his collaborations with contemporary composers and improvisers.

In association with composer Robert Ashley, he has performed as a lead singer in the opera Atalanta (Acts of God), which toured throughout Europe and the United States, and was recorded on Lovely Music. He currently tours with Now Eleanor’s Idea, a quartet of operas by Robert Ashley that includes eL/Aficionado, which was written especially for him. Buckner has worked regularly with Roscoe Mitchell, first in the trio SPACE, which toured the U.S. and Europe and released two critically acclaimed records, and currently with the Roscoe Mitchell New Chamber Ensemble. His performances have been recorded on 1750 Arch, Musical Heritage, Black Saint, and Nonesuch/Elektra labels. Recent Lovely Music recordings featuring Buckner’s voice include two collections, Full Spectrum Voice (1991/92), Sign of the Times (1994), as well as the opera, eL/Aficionado (1994).

In Berkeley, California, where he resided from 1967-1983, Buckner founded 1750 Arch Concerts, which presented over 100 events a year for eight years, and 1750 Arch Records, which released over 50 record albums. He was vocal soloist and co-director of the 23-piece Arch Ensemble which performed and recorded the work of 20th Century masters and premiered many works by American composers. Since 1989, he has curated the World Music Institute's “Interpretations” series in New York.

Buckner has appeared as a soloist with many ensembles, including Bowery Ensemble, Musical Elements, and Essential Music. For the past six years he has presented an annual New York concert devoted to premieres of newly commissioned works.

Pianist JOSEPH KUBERA has gained international renown as a major interpreter of contemporary music. He has appeared as soloist in such festivals as the Berlin Inventionen Festival and New Music America, and in New York’s Interpretations Series. In recent years Mr. Kubera has been awarded performance grants by the National Endowment for the Arts (Solo Recitalist Program), the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, and other arts organizations.

Mr. Kubera is a core member of the Roscoe Mitchell New Chamber Ensemble, the S.E.M. Ensemble and North/South Consonance; tours with composer Robert Ashley, and has performed with Essential Music, Steve Reich and Musicians, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the Bowery Ensemble, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and other New York groups. He has recorded for the Wergo, Lovely Music, OO Discs, 1750 Arch and Opus One labels.

As soloist, ensemble musician, and concert master, VARTAN MANOOGIAN has performed on five continents. In New York and at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. he has premiered the works of such living composers as Milton Babbitt and Christobal Halffer. A graduate of the Paris Conservatory and the Juilliard School, Mr. Manoogian was Associate Concert Master of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra and later became Concert Master of the famed Orchestre de la Suisse Romande conducted by Ernest Ansermet and Paul Kletzky with whom he toured Japan. He has presented Master Classes in Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the United States. Mr. Manoogian founded the Camerata Internacional de Girona and toured as its conductor and soloist, and has appeared in concert and on television in Soviet Armenia. He has recorded for the Vox, Musical Heritage, Victo and Lovely Music labels. Mr. Manoogian is an honorary member and president of the jury of the International Violin Competition of Courcillon, France.

Composer, multi-instrumentalist and bandleader HENRY THREADGILL has been a seminal figure in the vanguard of contemporary instrumental music since the early 1970s. He has created a body of music that includes more than 150 recorded works that, while firmly rooted in America’s Great Black Music tradition, often integrate forms and instruments historically associated with chamber or orchestral music. It’s no surprise that Threadgill won Best Composer honors in Downbeat’s International Jazz Critic’s Poll in 1991, 1990, 1989 and 1988, when he placed in 11 categories and had two albums nominated as Record of the Year. A more remarkable tribute to his craft is the fact that he received the composer award in 1988, 1989 and 1991 from Downbeat’s readers, as well.

Threadgill’s music has been performed by some of the most acclaimed and adventurous instrumental ensembles of the past two decades: the trio Air, which emerged from the core membership of Chicago’s visionary cooperative, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), to become one of the most influential bands of the 1970’s and early 1980’s; the resourceful seven piece Sextet he formed in the early 1980’s and led through the advent of the 1990’s; such specialty units as X-75, his 20 piece Society Situation Dance Band and his Marching Band; and his current group, Very Very Circus. He has also received diverse commissions ranging from music for small ensembles such as the Roscoe Mitchell and Rova Saxophone Quartets, to larger works for the American Jazz Orchestra Salute to Harold Arlen, the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra.

Gerald Oshita’s photo by: Ed Kashi

Digital Editing: Tim Martyn/Classic Sound, New York
Recorded at Merkin Concert Hall and at Marv Nonn Studios, Cross Plains, Wisconsin.
Executive Producer: Thomas Buckner, Mutable Music Productions

Art Direction and Design: By Design
Cover painting: “Previous to the Present”, watercolor and mixed media.
Copyright ©1994 by Heather Molnar.

All compositions Copyright ©1993 Roscoe Mitchell/AECP Publishing with the exception of he didn’t give up/he was taken, Copyright © 1993 Henry Threadgill.

© P 1995 Lovely Music, Ltd.

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