INTAKT RECORDS – CD-REVIEWS
ALEXANDER HAWKINS – ELAINE MITCHENER QUARTET
UPROOT

Intakt CD 297 / 2017

 

Mitchener unites traces of Jeanne Lee, Betty Carter, Cathy Berberian, Brigitte Fontaine, Anca Parghel and even Billie Holiday in a highly fascinating, movable and pointed way in her highly dynamic, brisk and boisterous stage action. It is so much more than just vocalizing and singing. She can switch rapidly between leading and following and always manages to take the audience with her. 
Outstanding moments were the internal vocal conduction through STOP—MOVE—STAY shouts that strongly drew everybody into the movement. The other astounding moment was the performance of "The List," her reciting of an endless LIST OF THINGS TO GET RID OFF on a lovely undulating groove. 
Bassist Neil Charles went flying, from the first moment filling the space with the sound of his mighty wings. Steve Davis acted as an enormously spacy percussionist moving the clouds and Alexander Hawkins played or juggled the balls. The musical action went beyond known limits with a lot of known and familiar tools.
Henning Bolte, Europe jazz Media Chart November 2017

 

 

Brevario, El Intruso, Buenos Aires, 31. Oktober 2017

 

 

 

Enrico Bettinello, Giornale della Musica, Italia, 16. November 2017

 

 

Cathy Berberians 'Stripsody', Marclays 'Manga Scroll', Cages 'Songbook'... Duette mit
Minton, Maggie Nicols... Dazu tanz-/musik-theatralische Performances wie "Industrialising
Intimacy" oder "Of Leonardo da Vinci" (beides mit David Toop), demnächst
"Sweet Tooth" als Lehrstunde über die Gier nach Süßem und die Sklaverei auf den
Zuckerrohrplantagen. All das hat seinen gemeinsamen Nenner in der Contraltostimme
einer Londonerin mit jamaikanischen Wurzeln, mit der ich bei Uproot (Intakt CD 297)
erstmals Bekanntschaft mache. Im ALEXANDER HAWKINS-ELAINE MITCHENER
QUARTET singt sie 'Why Is Love Such a Funny Thing?' von Patty Waters, 'The Miracle'
von Jeanne Lee, 'Blasé' von Archie Shepp (ebenfalls durch Lee unvergesslich) und das
eigene 'Directives'. Hawkins macht für sie zudem Musik zu 'UpRoot' mit Lyrics von Lyn
Hejinian (die mit Larry Ochs verheiratet ist) und zu Rumis Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
/ and rightdoing there is a field. / I'll meet you there.
Der Pianist, zuletzt gehört
mit Chicago / London Underground, hat an der Seite Neil Charles am Kontrabass und
Stephen Davis an den Drums, für ein Wechselspiel aus samtenem Handschuh und
eisernen Fesseln. Mitcheners 'Why...' ist da erst nur ein intimes Sichfragen vor dem
Spiegel, bei Lees Mirakel aber dann schon von kapriziöser Amazingness, wenn sie
Silben zerkaut und Vokale dehnt und dramatisch übertreibt. Davis raschelt mit Muscheln,
Mitchener verquirlt Zungenschläge mit Kehllauten, und ich atme auf, wenn sie
Hejinians Text wiederfindet. Ausgiebigen pianistischen Deklinationen folgen Babababa
und Hexengejodel zu Bogenstrichen und spitzem Gepinge. Zu Mbira und wieder Muscheln
folgen dann Shepps irre Zeilen voller Sperma und Mösensaft: I give you a lump
of sugar / You tilt my womb 'til it runs / All of Ethiopia awaits you, my prodigal son. ..

Mitchener mischt Divensang mit Zungenrede, Hawkins hämmert, sie listet kaputtes
Zeug, das uns zumüllt, sie gröhlt, lallt, schnattert theatralisch, überhurzt ihr eigenes
"Stop!". Ach, Songs sollten nicht auf der Liste von Things to Dispose Of stehen.
Rigobert Dittman, Bad Alchemy 96, 2017

 

 

 

Kevin LeGendre, Jazzwise, London, August 2017

 

 

 

Aldo Del Noce, Jazzconvention, 4 Dicembre 2017



 

Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz, December 2017

 

The Wire, London, December 2017

 

 

Jörg Konrad, Jazzpodium, Dez-Jan 2017/18

 

 

Hannes Schweiger, Concerto, Österreich, Dezember 2017

 

 

Jan Gralie, Salt Peanuts, November 22, 2017

 

 

David Rocheleau-Houle, All About Jazz, December 29, 2017

 

 

Reiner Kobe, Jazznmore, Schweiz, Januar 2018

 

Clapping, slapping, stuttering into action, Elaine Mitchener is centre stage. She is surrounded by a trio doing a fantastic job of sounding like they're clutching their instruments while falling down a flight of stairs.

Together, they are Alexander Hawkins – Elaine Mitchener Quartet. And as ever, first impressions aren't always reliable - very soon it becomes clear that they are in fact falling down this imaginary flight of stairs together in neatly composed coordination, and that the format is not a familiar trio plus singer, but very much a quartet, with Mitchener a multi-instrumentalist ready to sing or speak, to (almost) inaudibly snap open and closed her mouth, and to make any range of sounds in between.

The UpRoot album launch at Kings Place displayed the whole gamut of moods, from the tender retelling of Patty Waters' Why is Love Such a Funny Thing, or Jeanne Lee's more theatrical narrative The Miracle, blending in to an operatic climax.

Yet it is on Alexander Hawkins' own title track composition that the threads are truly tied together – an intense bebop rhythm trio led by Hawkins' distinctive wide-ranging style, filtered through the texture provided by Mitchener on top, with occasional Zappa-esque moments (such as the atonal revelation that "It's true I cannot see my face because it is always facing"). Joy acts as a palate cleanser, a clean resolution of subtle bass, and cymbals brushed or lightly rapped by the deft knuckles of Stephen Davis on the stool.

The spiritual OM-SE draws on the rich talent of Neil Charles, who opens with sweeping bass coupling Mitchener's siren calls, occasionally muddled with brief bouts of vocal transient tics, before Charles slips into a bowed improvisational moment and the relaxing walking swing of Environment Music walks in. This is a journey into the mundanities of someone's life: the box of receipts, tired bras, loose change in many kitchen drawers, mains leads that work sometimes. It highlights how likeable a prospect the quartet really are. The warm glimpses across the band, the pats on the shoulder as they walk past one another; Hawkins genuinely enthused and humbled to have an audience to play to, and Mitchener presenting like the sort of wildcard friend who you can introduce to anyone, and make any evening entertaining.

A fleeting Archie Shepp revisit of Blasé, arranged as it is here, is a song that feels remarkably of the moment. Without the melancholy soft melodic introduction of Shepp's tenor, the Jeanne Lee lyrics sound like a stark warning, and Mitchener's pressing, accusatory, almost wounded storytelling delivery on top of the atmospheric percussion makes for a powerful unsettling piece.

Listened to live and recorded, the quartet are subtly different things. The record feels more a collection of vignettes – brief emotional episodes coupling a tonal language and thought together. Live they are a more amorphous beast, blurring song boundaries and only coming up for air at the interval and the end. The audience, so acclimatised to the continuous waves of sound and vision and abrupt changes in attitude, was happy to sit in silence watching a motionless band on stage for 10-15 long seconds, before a grin from Mitchener signalled that the set was over.

Part of the mesmerising performance is the stress that Mitchener and Hawkins can generate between them, formed from an enticing unpredictability. Directives, an avant-garde journey flitting from instructions to questions through an astounding array of sounds, was opened and reprieved throughout the set to bring the audience back to a certain atmosphere, and on record closely accompanied by the earnest overtures of I'll Meet You There.

Flipping between moments of clean organisation, swallowed sounds and run together fingers; UpRoot is composed as an epic struggle; a constant tension between clutter and clarity, wrought with emotion. Yet another unique feather in the cap of the diverse careers of Mitchener and Hawkins.

Dan Bergsagel, London Jazz News, Sunday, January 14, 2018

 

 

Tor Hammerø, Tor de Jazz, 1.1.2018

 

 

Jason Bivins, Point of Departure, March 2018

 

 

Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise, March 2018

 

 

Read interview

Sebastian Scotney, London Jazz News, March 19, 2018

 

 

Nicolas Dourlhès, Citizenjazz, 25 février 2018

 

 

Jazz Da Gama, Jazzdagama, Mar 11, 2018

 

 

 

Ben Taffijn, Draai om je oren, Jazz en meer, 5.4.18

 

 

John Sharpe, All About Jazz, May 4, 2018

 

 

 

Ian Patterson, All About Jazz, May 5, 2018

 

Jean Buzelin, CultureJazz.fr, Aug 2018

 

Ken Vos, Jazzism #4, Aug/Sep 2018

 

Jazzwise Magazine, Nov 2018


 

 

 

 

 

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