Composition / Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3

Roscoe Mitchell, The Transatlantic Art Ensemble

CD18,90 out of print

Roscoe Mitchell and Evan Parker handpicked the personnel of this ‘Transatlantic Art Ensemble’, a fascinating and, indeed, historic coming together of players from the US and UK, amongst them members of Mitchell’s Note Factory group and Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. Here they premiere new pieces by Roscoe, recorded live in concert at Munich’s Muffathalle. An epic journey through music of many changing – and surprising – moods, from lyrical episodes to plateaux of intensity.

Featured Artists Recorded

September 2004, Muffathalle, Munich

Original Release Date


  • Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3
    (Roscoe Mitchell)
  • 1I13:36
  • 2II04:07
  • 3III18:34
  • 4IV05:42
  • 5V03:54
  • 6VI03:17
  • 7VII09:12
  • 8VIII14:48
  • 9IX05:58
Jazz Magazine, Disque d’Emoi
Jazzman, Choc du mois
Saxophonist Mitchell was the first guiding light of the legendary Art Ensemble of Chicago in the 1960s, one of the most ambitious, skilful and accessible of all free-jazz groups. As a composer, Mitchell bridges jazz and contemporary classical music, and this suite-like live set for a 14-piece band joins current Art Ensemble personnel and members of UK sax virtuoso Evan Parker’s Electro-Acoustic group. … If large-ensemble improv music suggests a dissonant turmoil, this is a contemporary music of rich sonority, plenty of contrast, and patient development. … If this is still something of a specialised choice, it’s a beautifully recorded and unusually varied one.
John Fordham, The Guardian
Brilliantly structured, the album flows through solo cadenzas and controlled, percussion driven climaxes, crossing and re-crossing the boundaries of contemporary classical music and free-jazz.
Mike Hobart, Financial Times
It’s the combining of different elements – the written and improvised, the strange harmonic material and the variation of mood – that most impresses. There are places where just the strings or the two drummers are heard and these contrast with the full ensemble sections that tumble and overflow with rage and passion. And there’s an attention to detail here that mazes. … Such details add texture and depth but more than that they create fluctuations in the sound that constantly surprise the listener.
Rewarding music.
Duncan Heining, Jazzwise
Saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell ist nicht bekannt dafür, transatlantische Brücken zu schlagen. Umso überraschender ist die betörende Schönheit und zwingende Logik, die er seinem Transatlantic Art Ensemble auf Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3 abringt. … Wie er die beiden Gruppen ohne hörbare Brüche oder Überschneidungen zu einem homogenen Klangkörper fügt, verrät absolute Meisterschaft. Obwohl einige Passagen komplett notiert und andere völlig frei improvisiert sind, gibt es auch zwischen diesen beiden Prinzipien der Klangerzeugung keinerlei Brüche. Musik ist Musik, nicht mehr und nicht weniger.
Wolf Kampmann, Jazzthing
Aus eins mach zwei. Roscoe Mitchell wird dieser Maxime auf seiner neuen CD gleich in mehrfacher Hinsicht gerecht. Er macht aus seiner Note Factory und aus Evan Parkers Electro-Acoustic-Ensemble das Transatlantic Ensemble und führt Improvisation und Komposition auf ein gemeinsames Prinzip zurück. … Er treibt … ein ausgeklügeltes Spiel mit Timbres und musikalischen Schollenverschiebungen. Fast unmerklich zieht die Intensität der Großformation an, wird das Spiel freier, driftet das Kollektiv in eine Schar von Individuen auseinander. … Die punktuelle Annäherung an einzelne Stationen dieser abstrakten Reise garantiert immer wieder neue Genüsse, Erkenntnisse und Höhepunkte.
Wolf Kampmann, Jazzthetik
“Jazz is part of the whole picture, but the communication lines are all over the place now. If you’re truly in love with music, you can’t help being affected by that fact.”
Roscoe Mitchell

Roscoe Mitchell has been a restless explorer of forms, ideas and concepts for more than 40 years. In 1966 his album “Sound” (Delmark) brought a new dynamic into the music with its emphasis on texture and silences and group creativity. After the wild peaks of the energy music of Albert Ayler (whose huge sound Mitchell had first encountered while both musicians were stationed with the US army in Germany in 1960), Mitchell was redefining and re-channelling the intensities of free jazz… “Sound” was the first recorded message to emerge from the newly-formed AACM collective, Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and it was an album that set directions for the shape of new jazz to come.

In December 1966 the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble was formed. When the group began to work in Europe in 1969 it became known as the Art Ensemble of Chicago. From the beginning, however, it was Mitchell’s wide-ranging musical vision that guided this polystylistic and enormously influential band. ECM produced some of the Art Ensemble’s key recordings of the 1970s and early 80s: “Nice Guys”, “Full Force”, “Urban Bushmen”, “The Third Decade”. In 2001 the group returned to the label for “Tribute To Lester”, and curated a “Selected Recordings” disc, a compilation of Art Ensemble material issued in 2002, its programme also including material by Mitchell’s Note Factory group, which had recorded for ECM in 1997.

One of the most significant reedmen of the post-Coltrane era and a musician who has put the composer at the centre of a music primarily distinguished by improvisation, Roscoe Mitchell has also made his mark in the world of contemporary “classical” composition, with numerous works written for ensembles of all sizes; supported over the years with grants from organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts and France’s Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique / Musique (IRCAM). Although his large discography is more heavily weighted toward ‘jazz’, Mitchell has the unusual distinction of being in the vanguard of two idioms. In November 2006, to give a recent instance, he premiered ”White Tiger Disguise” new music for string quartet and baritone voice, setting poetry of Daniel Moore, at New York’s Merkin Hall, to considerable acclaim. Much of Mitchell’s endeavour is in an area between the disciplines. “For myself“, he says, “I don’t call music anything but music.” When Munich’s Kulturreferat consulted ECM, back in 2003, about musicians appropriate for a symposium spotlighting improvisation as part of the compositional process, Mitchell was an obvious choice, along with his transatlantic contemporary Evan Parker. Mitchell and Parker were subsequently commissioned to prepare music for an ensemble assembled by the two of them, for concerts in Munich in September 2004.

The present recording features nine scenes from Roscoe Mitchell’s “Composition/ Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3”, heard here as an extended suite. (Of those scenes, Parts I, II, V, VI, VII, and IX derive from “Composition/Improvisation 2”, Parts VIII and IV from “Composition/Improvisation 1”, Part III from “Composition/Improvisation 3”).

For decades "scored improvisations" have been amongst Mitchell's many means of lifting collective improvising beyond routine responses. While sections of his “Composition/Improvisation” pieces are fully notated, other sections offer a calibrated freedom extended variously to individual musicians, sub-groups of players, or the entire ensemble. Roscoe Mitchell: “For the symposium in Munich, I devised three methods of improvisation with composition. One method involved each player getting a part and also six cards with scored improvisation on them. One piece used a limited number of notes, and I asked the players to use only those notes for improvisation. And for the third piece, I asked players to select their information from the composition and construct improvisation based on that”.

(Liner notes for “Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 and 3” give more details of the recording context. Additionally, original programme notes for the Munich concert can be found at ).