Roscoe Mitchell

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2014

Chicago, IL and Oakland, CA

Solo woodwind performer, composer, and educator, Roscoe Mitchell is an avant-garde jazz and contemporary music icon. He is a founding member of the groundbreaking Art Ensemble of Chicago, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and the Trio Space, and founder of the Creative Arts Collective of East Lansing, MI and The Roscoe Mitchell Quartet, among other projects. His music utilizes such unorthodox devices as spontaneous collective improvisation, toy instruments, and non-musical noise. Mitchell has recorded more than 100 albums and has written hundreds of compositions. For more than 35 years, he has designed the Percussion Cage, an elaborate percussion instrument consisting of instruments from America, China, Tibet, Africa, Australia, Europe, and Turkey, as well as many found instruments. Mitchell’s honors include a CMA Presenting Jazz grant (2010), and multiple grants from National Endowment for the Arts and Meet the Composer. He is currently the Darius Milhaud Chair at Mills College (CA). In early 2014, Mitchell released Roscoe Mitchell Conversations with Craig Taborn and Kikanju Baku (Wide Hive).

  • Roscoe Mitchell- “Who Dat,” Roscoe Mitchell: Conversations I with Craig Taborn and Kikanju Baku (Wide Hive Records, 2014):
    “Who Dat,” Roscoe Mitchell: Conversations I with Craig Taborn and Kikanju Baku (Wide Hive Records, 2014)
  • Solo Performance (2010)
  • Interview, Part I
  • Interview, Part II
  • Interview, Part III

What are the creative challenges you face as an artist?

Having the time and money to do things is increasingly important to me, not only for future work and projects, but also for nourishing my quest for more knowledge. It is essential for musicians who want to become master improvisers to study composition and improvisation as a parallel. Studying these two elements simultaneously is helpful to me in making informed compositional choices in real time. I have created over a 400 compositions, and I continue to develop compositions that I make up on the spot. In the present time, I’m at the beginning of a new approach for improvised solo saxophone compositions that I have titled Conversations. This technique allows me to play several lines at once on the saxophone. For example, sustaining a single pitch while playing a moving line. I have also started to use this method when working with other improvisers to set the parameters for creating spontaneous composition.