This live concert recording features Mitchell's Sound Ensemble, the same quintet that recorded the memorable album Snurdy McGurdy and Her Dancin' Shoes, the title composition from which leads off this set. It's a lovely, calmly swinging piece, and this rendition has a bit less verve and swagger than the original; its length allows the listener to wallow in a fantastic solo by Hugh Ragin, one of the finest (and most underrated) trumpeters in the music. This segues into a more abstract construction by Mitchell and then into a delicate reading of Joseph Jarman's classic "Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City," before briefly revisiting the "Snurdy..." theme. The second set begins with a serpentine, largely written piece by Mitchell, wherein alto, trumpet, and guitar circle each other in an intricate dance. This in turn merges into a kind of slow blues ("5974") that, while enjoyable enough, illustrates the somewhat sluggish quality that the quintet gets into periodically. Some of the fire appears to have diminished at this point in the band's history. On the final track, the late Lester Bowie's "Me Bop," Mitchell begins things with the sort of circular-breathing, sinuous soprano work he was very much into in the late '80s, coiling over some finely percolating rhythms. The whole group engages in a good 15 minutes of boisterous free improv before a snapping bass solo ultimately leads into the song's bouncy theme. Live in Detroit has its moments and is certainly worth it for the devout Mitchell fan, even if it only ranks somewhere in the middle range of his oeuvre.
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AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick