The Roscoe Mitchell Issue, celebrating Art Ensemble of Chicago founder and American iconoclast, Roscoe Mitchell. This very special issue is an appreciation of Mitchell’s career as an improvisor, instrumentalist, composer, painter, and educator as told by the musicians whom he has affected and through his own words. The issue starts with a rigorously researched and beautifully written overview of the saxophonist’s career by Brooklyn-based saxophonist Sam Weinberg. As the reader continues, they will then find insights into Mitchell’s work and working methods from a group of future iconoclasts, such as Tyshawn Sorey, Darius Jones, Ken Vandermark, James Fei.
Throughout the issue, composer and improvising harpist Zeena Parkins explores Mitchell’s work as an educator through a series of interviews with former Mills College students, all of were collaborators in orchestrating and arranging Mitchell’s recent works for large ensembles.
But the real glory of this issue, one of the half-dozen “artist portraits” that SA has produced over its ten-year history, is the sheer weight of the artist in his own words. For the first time ever, an issue features four interviews with its subject: a previously published conversation on music and saxophone with Bay-Area stalwart, Phillip Greenlief; a talk about living the musician’s life with cellist Tomeka Reid and architecture scholar David Brown; a friendly talk on all things saxophone with the radical contrabass clarinetist John McCowen; and a revelatory talk about Mitchell’s visual art practice with Chicago writer and gallery owner John Corbett. This last chat leads us into a very special double gatefold color reproduction of some of Mitchell’s paintings in celebration and anticipation of his first solo show at the Corbett vs. Dempsey gallery in early 2024.
Although we’ve done away with our usual recurring articles for this issue—Sites of Formation, People Doing Things, etc.—we had to retain the Exquisite Corpse series, so beautifully developed by Jules Gimbrone and Ka Baird in the last two issues. Afro-futurist conceptualist and composer Jessie Cox rounds this series out with a nod to the previous composers, an homage to the issue’s theme, and an eye toward outer space.
This is a very special issue, one that is long overdue in celebrating the work of a musician’s musician, an artist’s artist, a thinker’s thinker, and a true cultural treasure. Put on your copy of “Nonaah” and get down to it.