Robert Mitchell

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Reviews of Robert Mitchell


23/11/2005 Dirk - Jazz Not Jazz . com

What I really love about British Jazz musicians is that they usually have a different approach to their music compared to their (US) American counterparts. The British version of Jazz sounds more open to various influences and is often highly original. Take Courtney Pine or Juliet Kelly for example. Or Robert Mitchell and his Panacea Project. You might know Robert as a member of the bands Quite Sane, Tomorrow’s Warrior and J-Life (here alongside Julie Dexter) or from his first Panacea album Voyager released in 2001 on Dune Records.
Like its predecessor Trust is an album that demands your attention and time but rewards you with some great and inspiring music that expands the borders of jazz music. Look at the name of the songs and it’s obvious that this isn’t another run of the mill album.
Again Robert Mitchell (piano, rhodes, wurlitzer, composer, arranger etc.) has teamed up with Richard Spaven (drums), Barak Schmoll (saxophones), Volker Sträter (percussion) and Tom Mason (bass, replacing Nico Gomez) to form Panacea. Eska Mtungwazi who sang on Voyager only appears as guest vocalist on Breath On The Mirror this time. Instead, Robert has found Deborah Jordan, who debuted on Silhouette Brown’s album earlier this year, as musical alter ego to breathe life into his lyrics on most songs.
The dark and introspective If These Walls Could Talk features British veteran jazz singer Norma Winstone while Eugene Skeef talks about nomadic existence on the epic Shukran, by the way a dedication to Bheki Mseleku. The downtempo title song, Trust, is maybe the most traditional jazz song this album has to offer. Songs like The Thief Of Dimensions with its minimoog solo and organic instrumentation will certainly appeal to soul music fans while The Brink with its fusion of broken beats, jazz and weird key solos will also find its fans amongst nu jazz/broken beat lovers.
The album’s closer Ocean (In A Small Hand) is an interesting experiment with Robert creating a slow chill out athmosphere on piano with some wind effects and Gurdeep Stephens adding scatting overdubs of doh doh doooohs and even some gurgling sounds. Sounds odd on paper but this comes along as a fine lullaby.
Like mentioned above, this album may not appeal to everyone but it will take the open minded and persistent listener into beautifully arranged unheard soundscape. Highly recommendable if you want to discover something completely different.



01/11/2005 Richard E Undervcover Mag Nov 2005

A part of the F-Ire Collective and British music scene for the past ten years this is Robert’s debut solo offering. Influenced by the likes of McCoy Tyner and Cecil Taylor, there are also hints of Debussy, and Robert’s playing is an intrigueing mix of cool avant-garde and contemporary fire. Having played with people as diverse as The Jazz Warriors and the classical De Stijl Ensemble to I.G. Culture and The Roots this was never going to be an easily categorisable project. Mitchell's compositions are at times quite cerebral but this is balanced out by the warm, emotional playing of Saxophonist Barak Schmool and percussionist Volker Strater and Mitchell’s own times of letting go when he becomes loud, passionate and rhythmic. Drummer Richard Spaven has as much mastery of drum and bass and broken beat rhythms as more conventional jazz forms. Deborah Jordan (Silhouette Brown and upcoming solo album on Abstract Blue Recordings) supplies vocals on several tracks and her unique style really suits the material, at once melodic, pure and complex. She interprets Robert’s lyrics beautifully, and for once you can say that the voice really does work as another instrument in the group. The track If These Walls Could Speak features jazz vocal legend Norma Winstone who has recorded with Ian Carr’s Nucleus and many other UK jazz greats. A mellow, poetic track with Tom Mason’s double bass providing a warm bed for the ethereal synths and Rhodes. A Heart Full Of You features great performances from Ty and Deborah lifting the emotional temperature as the song progresses. An album that rewards repeated plays.

Richard E


07/09/2005 John Fordham

Former Tomorrow's Warriors pianist Robert Mitchell often seems like a man brooding over a chess problem. Considering that he made a mark in the 1990s in the young and funky crossover bands Quite Sane and J-Life, and climbed high enough up the local jazz pyramid to open the show for Wayne Shorter on a recent tour, such a private manner might come as a surprise.
But Mitchell is the very model of a postmodern jazz musician. He seems to pore over the intricacies of jazz, soul, funk, Latin and classical music, moving them restlessly around like pieces on a board. You rarely feel that Mitchell is much tempted by the playful urge of many jazz musicians to see how one string of notes sounds against another, just for the hell of it. He is, however, a brilliant pianist with a thoroughly individual sound and approach; every year he seems to get closer to realising his dream of what all his favourite idiomatic ingredients might perfectly mix down to.
Mitchell is launching a new CD with his band Panacea, called Trust, on the F-ire Collective's label. F-ire's devotion to cross-genre, percussion-dominated rhythmic innovation was clear at Mitchell's gig, with Volker Strater and Richard Spaven sharing the percussion duties. Mitchell's interest in the rhythmic counterpoints between percussion, sax lines, vocals and streaming Herbie Hancockish double-time piano often produced the engaging atmosphere of a kind of animated trance. His playing was constantly diverting, notably in a phenomenal solo display of buzzing runs, jarring chords, light-speed lyricism and bumping cross-rhythms near the end of the first set.
Several pieces built from long, winding soul melodies through intensifying collective playing to big finales. Some explored new twists on Latin rhythms, or overlaid themes in dreamy ballads. Mitchell doesn't write many tunes that you can whistle in the street, but he's a highly focused original who's heading where he's heading no matter what.


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