ECM Records has been knows for releasing some dense, dark, and dissonant albums in its long and storied history, and Far Side, the latest from Chicago's Roscoe Mitchell and The Note Factory, certainly ranks up there. Mitchell, the longtime reed musician on the Chicago scene, put together the line-up here of Corey Wilkes (trumpet, flugelhorn), Craig Taborn (piano), Vijay Iyer (piano), Jaribu Shahid (double bass), Harrison Bankhead (double bass, cello), Tani Tabbal (drums), and Vincent Davis (drums), for a live concert in Burghausen back in 2007.
With only 4 tracks, the shortest being around 10-minutes in length, Far Side is a pretty demanding listen. Opening cut "Far Side/Cards/Far Side" clocks in at just over a half hour, and is a dark slice of dissonant avant-garde/free jazz. Plenty of jagged piano tinklings, staccato horn & reed bursts, wild double bass harmonics, and tricky drum patterns on this one, so if you love your jazz more in the free-style with hardly a melody in sight, you've come to the right place. "Quintet 2007 A For Eight" is a more laid back, expansive & atmospheric jazz number, with Mitchell & Wilkes' soul searching lines soaring over some low bass and cello rumbles, while "Trio Four For Eight" is a wildly complex & quirky track, with blasts of trumpet, cello, sax, and double bass stabbing in and out of the mix before giving way to some gorgeous piano and relaxing percussion. "Ex Lover Five" once again sees the 8 piece band attacking with free-jazz frenzy, as off kilter piano lines and squonking reeds & horns do battle while disjointed rhythms bubble underneath.
Far Side is certainly not an easy listen, nor will it be for everyone's taste. Chances are if you like the more avant-garde side of the jazz & fusion spectrum, you'll find a lot of rewards in the demanding sounds going on within this album.
1) Far Side/Cards/Far Side (30:56)
2) Quintet 2007 A For Eight (9:57)
3) Trio Four For Eight (12:38)
4) Ex Flover Five (12:25)