Alex Cline

For People in Sorrow

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In October of 2011, drummer Alex Cline and a large ensemble performed his reimagining of Roscoe Mitchell's iconic composition, People in Sorrow, at the Angel City Jazz Festival. In the liner essay, he explains that he heard the work while in high school on an Art Ensemble of Chicago album of the same name, and that it quite literally had a profound influence on the development of his musical thought. He also states that while he had the notion of undertaking this endeavor years ago, he initially resisted in order to examine his motivation in wanting to pay tribute to the work, its composer, AEC, and the group's fostering organization, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Thank goodness he followed through. Cline's ensemble performed just before Mitchell’s own group, making the tribute complete. The band includes Oliver Lake and Vinny Golia on saxophone and woodwinds, Dan Clucas on cornet, Zeena and Maggie Parkins on harp and cello respectively, Jeff Gauthier on electric violin, guitarist G.E. Stinson, bassist Mark Dresser, pianist Myra Melford, vocalist Dwight Trible, and conductor Will Salmon. Cline retains the work's mournful, elegant theme as a recurring anchor. He drafts many new spaces for dialogue and free improvisation yet notates and re-creates many of the instances that appeared on the original recording -- this is remarkable since much of it was freely improvised. The inherent compassion and dignity of People in Sorrow proves the real inspiration for this re-imagining. Groups of players dialogue off the theme, and individuals take solos in relation to it and one another. The pace is restrained and spacious until half-an-hour in. The dynamic intensifies with Stinson's gritty slide guitar solo, backed only by Golia on an instrument resembling a melodica. From here, the ensemble begins to build the work to near fever pitch, yet remains grounded in the backdrop by a sung chant from Sister Dang Nghiem, a Vietnamese Buddhist nun, via a video projection behind the band -- this can be readily heard, and also seen on the accompanying DVD. No matter how deep and wide the ensemble ranges in its exploration, People in Sorrow is ever present, not only as a guiding force in the moment, but also as an enduring influence that continues to inform possibilities for interaction between formal composition and free improvisation. The playing by this ensemble is canny, engaged, and wildly creative; at times their playing borders on the awe-inspiring, both in restraint and free blowing. For People in Sorrow is not only a fitting tribute to Mitchell, the work, the AEC, and AACM, but proves a new high-water mark for Cline in terms of discipline, openness, and vision.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
3:55 Amazon
2 01:03:47 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
blue highlight denotes track pick