Recorded live in Burghausen, Germany in 2007, Far Side features journeyman avant-garde saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and his ensemble the Note Factory performing in a concert. Joining Mitchell here are trumpeter Corey Wilkes, pianists Craig Taborn and Vijay Iyer, bassists Jaribu Shahid and Harrison Bankhead, and drummers Tani Tabbal and Vincent Davis. Beginning with the epic three-part 30-minute suite "Far Side/Cards/Far Side," the concert is an atmospheric and cinematic mix of Mitchell's longstanding musical touchstones including free jazz, European classical music, and modern creative group improvisation. Tracks such as the fragmented and atonal "Quintet 2007 A for Eight" and the similarly inclined "Trio Four for Eight" have the feel of composed classical music while evincing a more freely improvised aesthetic. This is often achieved by juxtaposing bowed cello and bass parts against improvised piano and sections where each musician seems to interject a melodic idea into an overall harmonic theme. There are moments of layered percussion, expansive atonal soundscapes, and fiery and combative moments between Mitchell and Wilkes as well as windy, drawn-out passages that tilt upon silence. If you're a hardcore Mitchell aficionado and/or fan of ECM's cerebral jazz catalog, Far Side would be a stellar addition to your library.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar