File Under Best of 2013
Matt Mitchell, piano; Ches Smith, drums and percussion
The pieces on Fiction, pianist Matt Mitchell’s debut recording as a leader, began as etudes. Composed by the pianist in an attempt to integrate his notated composing and his considerable prowess as an improvisor, they soon took on a life of their own as creative work well beyond exercises or technical craftsmanship. Add energetic percussionist Ches Smith into the mix and you now have a combustible duo creating some of the best ‘out’ music of 2013.
Mitchell has played with some of the greats in modern and experimental jazz, from Dave Douglas to Tim Berne. Smith has an even more diverse pedigree, working with rock and pop artists as well as jazz musicians. Going head to head on Fiction, one can readily hear why Mitchell and Smith are so in demand. It isn’t just chops, though both have them aplenty and for days; it is the creative mindset with which they approach and embrace music-making. It leaves one with the impression that the album is a fully embodied, eminently expressive, and original statement – no mean feat when you consider that it is also challenging fare that requires a great deal from its listeners. Recommended.