Roscoe Mitchell is a wonder in a jazz world full of them. At age 67, the ascetic-looking, oft-recorded (87 albums, by one count) musician is about to release what has to be one of the most extraordinary discs of his entire career in a few weeks, a large-scale piece by Mitchell and the Transatlantic Ensemble, "Composition/Improvisations 1, 2 and 3" on ECM. It is absolutely characteristic of Mitchell -- one of the major stars of Chicago's fabled AACM musical collective -- that the chilly, abstract title of the disc belies music that is frequently of eerie beauty (in the string writing) and utterly harrowing and apocalyptic in its collective soloing.
But then Mitchell has been one of the living masters of the avant-garde jazz saxophone for most of his performing life. He is so gifted and inventive -- so versatile in the instruments he can play and so powerfully equipped with an armada of technique -- that he can, with little difficulty, carry an entire evening by himself just playing solo. (And he has done exactly that in the University at Buffalo's Allen Hall.)
In one of the best additions to the Gusto at the Gallery series, and a truly special event, Mitchell will bring a trio with him to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Auditorium, 1285 Elmwood Ave., at 8 p.m. next Friday. Accompanying him will be the sonorous bass player Harrison Bankhead and drummer Vincent Davis.
The event is free, and all who come are well-advised that entry to the concert will be on a "first come, first served" basis.
-- Jeff Simon