Artist: Robert Mitchell

Date of Release: 27/11/2006

Catalogue no: Fire

Label: F-ire

Price: £12

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Track Listing







Somebody Backstage (O.Puente)




Priceless (R.Mitchell)




Mambo Influeniado (C.Valdez arr. O.Puente)




Equinocturne (R.Mitchell)




Each Bird Must Sing (R.Mitchell)




Almendra (A.Valdez arr. O.Puente)




Reflection Of A Bee-Hummingbird (R.Mitchell)




Swings And Roundabouts (O.Puente)






Robert Mitchell is a young UK virtuoso of McCoy Tyner-like precision, excitement, boldness, and scope. Formidable improvising skills, remarkable breadth and absorbing unpredictability
The Guardian

Omar Puente's combination of raw, sawing dissonance, audaciously gliding new melody and burning intensity lifts the session into a mood it hardly loses again
The Guardian

Bridges is the debut album from the combined talents of distinctive British jazz pianist Robert Mitchell and Cuban violin virtuoso Omar Puente, and it features eight tunes: four written by Robert, two by Omar, and one apiece from Abalardo Valdez and Grammy award winning Chucho Valdez. The pair met six years ago in London; Robert, impressed on hearing the Cuban's ten-piece Raices Cubanas band, invited Omar to join his group, Panacea, on stage for a series of live performances, and to guest on its first CD. This duo collaboration is a relatively recent development but has already included several UK performances as well as visits to Morocco and Belgium, and a celebrated performance at the Havana International Jazz Festival, captured on a 45-minute documentary screened in Cuba. It's an obvious challenge says Robert, just violin and piano filling the stage for a two-set show - but it's exciting! It's an honour to play with Omar, and our similarities (classical music, jazz) work equally as well as our differences (Latin music).

Robert Mitchell was born in Ilford, Essex in 1971 to a Grenadian father and a Barbadian mother. He studied at City University and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and, as a graduate of Tomorrow's Warriors and Gary Crosby's Nu Troop, plus award winning funky crossover bands Quite Sane and J-Life, has forged a formidable reputation as a gifted pianist and composer. As part of the prestigious F-ire Collective, Robert won the Jazz on 3 Innovation Award at the 2004 BBC Jazz Awards; he has also been nominated twice: for Rising Star in 2002and Best New Work in 2003. He's played/recorded with names such as Norma Winstone, Steve Coleman, Courtney Pine, Steve Williamson, Ty, 2 Banks of 4, and IG Culture, in addition to leading the six-piece Panacea. Panacea first performed in 2000, releasing its debut album, Voyager, on the Dune label a year later. Its second album, Trust, was released on F-IRE in 2005. In March this year, the band recorded a session for Radio 1's Gilles Peterson Worldwide show and, in July, made a memorable appearance at the North Sea Jazz Festival. 2006 also saw Robert touring with US vocalist Jhelisa Anderson. He also leads his own trio, and plays in a duo with Julian Siegel. A solo album, Equinox (originally a BBC Radio 3/Jerwood commission), is scheduled for release in Spring 2007.

Omar Puente was born in Santiago de Cuba in 1962. Between the ages of 12 and 18 he studied classical music under Russian and Cuban masters at the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana. His nights were spent learning Latin jazz at the feet of Chucho Valdez and Arturo Sandoval, and Cuban music from Ruben Gonzalez and Guillermo Rubalcaba in the city's famous music halls. His formal education was completed at Instituto Superior de Arte, Cuba's university for the performing arts. On graduating, Omar toured with the Jose Maria Vitier band and, after a period as soloist with Agrupacion de Concierto, he joined the Nacional Symphony Orquestra de Cuba (NSOC) where he progressed to first violin chair. During this time, he also worked/recorded with, amongst others, Guillermo Rubalcaba, Orquestra Reve, Charanga Habanera, Pablo Milanes, and Silvio Rodriguez. Omar left the NSOC to become a full time member of the Cuban Boys, spending the next few years travelling the world playing modern Cuban music. He moved to the UK in 1997 and formed Raices Cubanas, a collective of immigrant Cuban musicians occasionally guest led by the late Kirsty MacColl. Omar recently toured with Denys Baptiste's Let Freedom Ring project; he's also a member of Courtney Pine's touring band, and is involved with the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition to Raices Cubanas, Omar leads the six-piece Cubania, and is currently working on an album of original jazz material to be released under his own name next year.

CDs and pics available on request
Robert Mitchell and Omar Puente are available for interview


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tel/fax: 020 7732 4624 mobile: 07986 235 855
email: helen@greendesk.demon.co.uk




01/02/2007 Rick Finlay JAZZ REVIEW




Rick Finlay

As part of the London based F-IRE collective pianist Robert Mitchell has been steadily rising the adulation ladder over the last couple of years, mainly on the back of some sterling,fiery appearances with his trio. Here ,alongside Cuban violinist Omar Puente, he is a little more isolated, yet equally memorable.Exploring the highways and byways of Cuban folk,classical, and more straight-ahead jazz structures this is music that is instantly persuasive. Passion and vigour exudes from these two, both have a shrewd sense of when to lift, lower, and relax the tension whilst having one eye firmly on each other. Mitchell, all percussive runs and jaunty, enticing motifs, is a pleasure to the ear. Puente, who was once a member of the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra, is equally beguiling. A classicist at heart he is equally at home with improvisation, here creating an intoxicating cinerama of sound. This highly interactive partnership first met whilst the violinist was guesting with Mitchell's Panacea. After the hustle and bustle city-life vigour of that band this must seem like a stroll through wide open spaces. To say both enjoy the surroundings is slightly wide of the mark. These two simply revel in the space.

A compelling meeting of minds by two musicians who have a great deal to say. If piano/violin is a marriage that you may consider a little harsh, rest assured BRIDGES is not in the least unwelcoming. Well worth checking out.


01/02/2007 Brian Priestley JAZZWISE





You can probably put your own interpretation on the album title BRIDGES,which doesnt correspond to an individual track-name.But suffice it to say that this is an easily appreciated yet profound collaboration between the British-born Mitchell and Cuban expatriate Puente, which could probably only have happened with jazz as a common motivator. While there are only two Cuban standards included (one from the repertoire of Chucho Valdez), their feeling pervades a number of the original compositions, and the technical assurance of both musicians means that one never misses the absent rhythm-section. But that is only half the story, since some of the longer tracks go far beyond basic improv on familiar forms and into the realms of dynamic rhapsodising. Whether on the standards or the original material, both Mitchell and Puente lay into their task and their instruments as if playing was going out of style, but with guys like these around, I doubt it ever will.

Brian Priestley


24/01/2007 Ian Mann www.24dash.com


The latest album to come from the consistently interesting F-ire Collective is this fascinating duo recording featuring pianist Robert Mitchell and violinist Omar Puente. "Bridges" is an appropriate title as the Essex born Mitchell links up with the Cuban virtuoso to perform a series of eight tunes. Four of these come from the pen of Mitchell with Puente contributing two pieces. Cuban legends Abalardo Valdez and Chucho Valdez supply a tune apiece.

The pair have worked together before in Mitchell's group Panacea but the duo is a more recent development.

Both players have impressive pedigrees. Mitchell cut his teeth with tomorrow's Warriors and Gary Crosby's Nu Troop.He has played with funk crossover groups like J- Life and also with established jazz figures such as Norma Winstone, Steve Williamson and Steve Coleman among others. Coleman was a major influence on the F-ire Collective which numbers Mitchell among it's members. Mitchell has led his own sextet Panacea since 2000 and has released two albums with the group. "Voyager" on the Dune label was released in 2001 and in 2005 "Trust" appeared on F-ire's own label.

Puente initially studied classical music at the Escuela Nacional De Arte in Havana. He later learnt Latin Jazz and Cuban music from such great figures as Chucho Valdez, Artruro Sandoval, Ruben Gonzalez and Guillermo Rubalcaba. After graduation he continued his involvement in both classical and Cuban music playing as first violin with the Nacional Orquestra De Cuba and later touring the world with The Cuban Boys. Since moving to the UK in 1997 he has led the ten-piece band Raices Cubanas, a group of Cuban ĂmigrĂs who were sometimes joined by the late Kirsty MacColl. It was during this period that Mitchell first heard Puente and invited him to guest with "Panacea". Puente has toured with saxophonist Denys Baptiste and is currently a member of Courtney Pine's touring band. Mitchell has also played with Pine.

The music on "Bridges" is an absorbing amalgam of the musician's different backgrounds. There is a strong classical element but there is also a strong spirit of jazz and improvisation plus the Latin and Cuban influences. Puente plays an electric violin which has a surprisingly full and rounded tone and combines well with Mitchell's grand piano. The range of sounds generated by just two instruments is impressive. Puente's violin swoops and soars covering all the tonal possibilities of the instrument and his use of pizzicato is also imaginative. . Meanwhile the resourceful and versatile Mitchell seems to cover every inch of the keyboard. The chemistry between the two is remarkable and this truly is a meeting of equals.

The standard of writing is high too. Puente's "Somebody Backstage" is a spirited opener and features Puente's distinctive pizzicato.

Mitchell's "Priceless" is more sombre but boasts a gorgeous melody.

Chucho Valdez's "Mambo Influeniado" in an arrangement by Puente is a brief but joyous romp.

By way of total contrast Mitchell's "Equinoctune" introduces his own classical leanings and is achingly beautiful. Mitchell's ballad "Each Bird Must Sing" continues the reflective mood and features some wonderful interaction between the players.

If the two previous pieces were studies in control Abalardo Valdez's "Almendra" brings a playful note to the proceedings with it's jaunty Latin tune which Puente embellishes with classical flourishes. The duo then take off with a fast and furious improvisation featuring pounding piano and fiery violin.

"Reflections Of a Bee Hummingbird" also from the pen of Mitchell is the lengthiest track on the record coming in at over thirteen minutes. Initially the piece is reflective in tone and features classically influenced passages for solo piano. In the second half of the composition following a bridging section that again features Puente's use of pizzicato the mood darkens considerably. Mitchell's rumbling low register notes and Puente's taut and abrasive bowing create an atmosphere of thrilling dissonance before matters are resolved.

Puente's "Swings And Roundabouts" closes the album, a joyous blend of his European and Latin influences executed with an infectious charm.

This is an adventurous record that rises to the specific challenges of the duo and succeeds brilliantly. The pair's use of dynamics ensures the music never becomes becalmed as can so often happen in the duo format. In a well-paced programme the listener is challenged but is unlikely to be bored.

For a relatively new partnership this is an excellent debut that promises even greater things to come. There is also a sense of fun and an element of theatricality about the music that suggests that they must be a terrific live act.


Review by Ian Mann


17/01/2007 Sarah Marshall - Blues and Soul




On the face of it , pianist Robert Mitchell and Cuban violinist Omar Puente for a curious couple. Robert composes dense, cerebral pieces which Omar floats through melodies with intuitive grace.Yet combine their talents and you have a musical force of immense proportions. Their latest album 'Bridges' has already gathered great interest , despite little promotion. A live enviroment does the material even greater justice, allowing the rapport between Robert and Omar to properly shine through. Robert brings a touch of humour to proceedings as he lays out a whopping 20-odd pages for the epic 'Reflection Of A Bee Hummingbird'. "It's the national bird of Cuba - size of a postage stamp" he quips. A wonderfully complex player, Robert's talents never cease to amaze. The perfect complement, Omar's fiery and gutsy playing provides a lighter (but no less accomplished) releif. Emotionally soothing and musically invigorating.


05/01/2007 John Fordham The Guardian

John Fordham
Friday January 5, 2007

The Guardian
Essex-born pianist Mitchell might seem too lateral, studious and contemporary- classical a performer to hit it off with UK resident Cuban violinist Omar Puente, a musician of frequently feverish rhythmic energy with an instinct for the dancefloor. But both are musicians of sophistication, high technique, idiomatic breadth (Puente is also a former first violin with the Nacional Symphony Orquestra de Cuba) and curiosity. The chemistry of Puente's Cuban roots and Mitchell's melodic eclecticism makes an uncliched burn-up out of Chucho Valdez's Mambo Influenciado, and the violinist's rapturously romantic sound contrasts compellingly with Mitchell's child-song piano vamp on the violinist's Somebody Backstage.

Mitchell's Equinocturne and Each Bird Must Sing are dreamy solo piano pieces considerably enriched by Puente's trumpet-like bite, and Almendra is an ecstatic dance-piece. The Cuban's mixed-culture finale Swings and Roundabouts almost falters on the differences between Puente's lava-flow and Mitchell's slightly stiffer concept of rhythm, but the whole set kicks up a very big noise for two acoustic musicians.


20/12/2006 Mike Hobart Financial Times

Robert Mitchell and Omar Puente, Pizza-on-the-Park Jazz Club, London
By Mike Hobart / Mike HobartFT

Published: December 20 2006 16:30 | Last updated: December 20 2006 16:30

This well-worked jazz duo roams freely around the Cuban folk, jazz and classical traditions, reflecting both musicians' pedigrees. Puente held the first violin chair in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba while also playing in Havana's many clubs. He toured internationally with modern Cuban music group The Cuban Boys before settling in the UK in 1997; London- born Mitchell has an equally rich and diverse musical history.

At this gig - the launch of their debut CD Bridges - the pair revealed a deep empathy, second-guessing each other's musical moves.

Mitchell's florid piano style matches Puente's soaring violin tonally, and the arrangements move seamlessly through romantic single-note melodies with jazzy backing to tongue-in-cheek pizzicato pluckings reminiscent of the Argentine composer Astor Piazzola.

Both sets started with tricky riffs supported by swirling Cuban dance rhythms that, like the final "Mambo Influenciado", were full of cunningly placed unison patches and deadstops.

Mitchell is a great accompanist, but takes full advantage of his extended solo passages, delivering jagged rhythms and flamboyant piano athletics without self-indulgence. Puente can be equally full- on with his repertoire of slurs, bowed chords and whispered scratchy arpeggios.

The real plus at this gig was the way the rhythmic traditions of jazz and Cuban music were integrated with the mournful serenity of folk music and the harmonic richness of classical music. This was at its strongest on "Reflections of a Bee Humming Bird", inspired by "the smallest bird in the world, the size of a postage stamp". Here Mitchell's rippling arpeggios and fluttery high notes combined with chirrupy violin to give a somewhat literal, extensively notated, musical depiction that yielded into strident and dazzling improv.



10/12/2006 Gerry Hectic www.fly.co.uk


Gerry Hectic 10Dec 2006

Robert Mitchell and Omar Puente have worked together for sometime now and this album proves there's a magical connection between the duo

Robert Mitchelll's band, Panacea had a load of guests on their last album Trust so this pairing with Cuban Omar Puente on electric violin is sparse by comparison.

Robert studied his music degree at City University (at the same time as Deborah Jordan) while Omar studied classical and Cuban music at the Escuela Nacional de Arte and the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana.

Omar plays the electric violin throughout the eight tracks. It's an instrument that doesn't seem to have much the impact on popular, jazz or any other music for that matter since the early adopters like Jean-Luc Ponty were pioneering the instrument in the 1970's (on his solo LPs and as a member of Zappa's Mothers Of Invention and later, the Mahavishnu Orchestra).

Apart from the ELO fad, I've never understood why we don't hear more electric violin. This makes Omar's performance here even more special as it's not gimmicky at all, pure virtuoso jazz-folk-Cuban.

The CD is a mix of relaxed Sunday afternoon with classical/jazz/minimal prog rock/jazz rock intensity. It's the longer pieces that get you in the mood, like 'Priceless' (very classical with a touch of Keith Jarrett) and 'Reflection Of A Bee-Hummingbird'.

The opener, 'Somebody Backstage' struck me as a wee bit Stephane Grappelli to start with but after a couple of listens, you can't help but fall for its charm. 'Equinoctune' and 'Each Bird Must Sing' are contemplative, near ambient explorations between the two performers.

In this setting, you might think traditional Cuban songs would be out of place. The sleeve notes tell us that Chucho Valdez's 'Mambo Influeniado' has always been an inspiration to Omar and that 'Almendra' was always a favourite of his parents.

Cuba is in the news a lot at the moment, from Castro's birthday to Pitbull's album. Omar has lived in the UK since 1997 and is one of a number of Cuban exiles that have made a great impression on the UK jazz scene. But I digress. Not that much actually as the last track, 'Swings And Roundabouts' is about Omar not being in Cuba with friends and family and at the same time, being in the UK with his wife, playing with and making new friends.

Hopefully, making even more new friends, they will be performing as part of the F-IRE December Festival with an album launch on the 18th December at Pizza On The Park; the rest of the festival (up to 22nd December) is on at Dalston's Vortex (see links below).

This is a unique album as it builds Bridges between classical piano and violin, folk, jazz, cinematic and Cuban music at the same time. This all links in with Steve Reich and takes me back to my obsessive ECM period. So much so, it's hard to stop listening to it, no bridge too far.

Hectic mix Nominations: 'Priceless', 'Mambo Influeniado', 'Almendra'

Reviewed: Robert Mitchell And Omar Puente —

Bridges (F-IRE) Cat. No.F-IRE CD 16 Release



30/11/2006 Alan Brownlee/MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS

Robert Mitchell & Omar Puente - Bridges (F-IRE)


OMAR Puente is a violinist from Cuba and Robert Mitchell came to attention with Courtney Pine, but two such creative musicians undercut all expectations.

Latin fire is here sublimated into rareified chamber jazz of pure beauty: Puente's long sinuous lines are perfectly framed by Mitchell's sensitive, fully focused piano.

One track, Each Bird Must Sing, is based around a single note and manages to sustain interest for its nine-minute length.

The duo format reveals the fine detail, and, clearly, Puente and Mitchell enjoy complete communication.

Manchester Evening News


20/11/2006 Chris Parker (Vortex)

'Passionate, exuberant, fiercely interactive duo music from two like-minded souls is contained in the eight tracks that make up Bridges, recorded in London in April 2005. Cuban electric violinist Omar Puente is capable of producing both poised, elegant melodies and vigorously affecting solos from his bowed instrument, interspersed with judiciously positioned plucked passages that impart a welcome textural variety to the duo sound; Robert Mitchell (as anyone who's heard his astonishing trio performances will know) is an extraordinarily dexterous, quicksilver-fast pianist, his playing by turns dramatically percussive and delicately tender, the whole delivered with a ready rhythmic wit perfectly suited to the varied fare that makes up this fascinating album. The pieces are all by Mitchell or Puente, except for a Chucho Valdez mambo and a Cuban staple, 'Almendra', a graceful yet irresistibly jaunty tune satisfyingly explored by the duo, and highlights include a beautiful multi-faceted musical portrait of the world's smallest bird ('Reflection of a Bee-Hummingbird') and the powerful Puente closer, 'Swings and Roundabouts' . Whatever they're playing, though, Mitchell and Puente demonstrate deep, natural-sounding musical empathy, and Bridges provides an object lesson in the tricky art of uncontrivedly combining grace and fire.'




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