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Mitchell, Matt: Fiction (Pi Recordings)

The debut recording from NY pianist Matt Mitchell, in a duo with drummer Ches Smith on drums, percussion & vibes, 15 inventive original compositions written to push Mitchell's technical skills in improvisational settings, each an ingenious little puzzle.

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product information:

UPC: 808713005028

Label: Pi Recordings
Catalog ID: PI 50
Squidco Product Code: 17949

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2013
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded on December 17th and 18th, 2012 at The Loove, Brooklyn, NY.


Matt Mitchell-piano

Ches Smith-drums, percussion, vibraphone

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track listing:

1. Veins 6:20

2. Brain Color 3:02

3. Upright 3:13

4. Singe 4:06

5. Wanton Eon 3:34

6. Dadaist Flu 6:10

7. Commas 2:35

8. Id Balm 3:10

9. Ohm Nuggets 3:27

10. Diction 4:28

11. Tether 2:58

12. Action Field 10:52

13. Specialty Hug 3:56

14. Nightmare Tesseract 4:30

15. Narcotic Bases 4:02
Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
NY Downtown & Jazz/Improv
Duo Recordings
Piano & Keyboards
Pi Records
Duo Recordings
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Duo Recordings
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descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Fiction is the highly anticipated debut recording from Matt Mitchell, one of the most in-demand pianists in jazz. Recently named one of "Four Young Pianists on the Rise" by The New York Times, Mitchell is a member of the Dave Douglas Quintet, John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet plus 1 and Large Ensemble, and most prominently Tim Berne's Snakeoil, whose eponymous album garnered accolades as one of the best releases of 2012.

Born in 1975, Mitchell grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and continues to be based in that city. He is a graduate of Indiana University and received his masters from The Eastman School of Music. Mitchell's name started appearing regularly on the New York jazz scene in 2009 when he started to make a name for himself as a pianist of superb musicality and invention. According to Berne, "Since we began working together the last four years I've seen him blossom into one of the most important pianists in music. His ability to navigate complex composed and improvised structures with incredible ease and maturity is revelatory." Mitchell is also in bands led by Rudresh Mahanthappa, Darius Jones and Michael Attias, among many others. He also leads various ensembles with such musicians as Berne (alto sax), Dan Weiss (drums), and Mary Halvorson (guitar). Dave Douglas says of Mitchell, "He is simply amazing. A true polymath, Matt seems to carry five thousand terabytes of information in him as he plays, and he manages to parse it out in the most ingenious and organic ways."

The pieces on Fiction were originally conceived by Mitchell as etudes to help him integrate composition with improvisation and to test the technical limits of his pianistic abilities. He started composing these pieces in 2010 just for himself - little musical puzzles to worry over - without much concern whether anyone besides himself would actually be able to play them. They pack a huge amount of information into short forms and are intended to be difficult. The music is all odd angles and shapes, sometimes with extreme interval leaps and constantly shifting rhythms. For example, the piece "singe" assigns two distinct tempos to the pianist's left and right hands. This is music almost completely devoid of any reliance on clichés and pet licks.

In addition to including them in his practice routine, he started to use them to warm up before performances. As a joke that quickly became serious, drummer Ches Smith, also a member of Tim Berne's Snakeoil, would play along with the pieces during these warmups while the band was on tour. It wasn't long before Mitchell and Smith decided to work together with purpose on this knotty music, gradually adding varying improvisational approaches to each piece. Slowly they evolved from solo etudes to mutable ensemble works.

Smith's importance to this rhythmically complex music cannot be overstated. His playing - loose in feel yet precise in execution - brings a punk and indie rock aesthetic to the music. "Ches sniffs out challenging music," says Mitchell, "and he'll spend time learning it for its own sake." Smith is one of the busiest drummers on the scene, playing music that often straddles jazz, improv and the noisier reaches of indie rock. In addition to leading his own bands, he is a member of Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog and Mary Halvorson's Quintet and Trio, and has played with Mr. Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, and the rock band Xiu Xiu. Smith was given Mitchell's piano scores, which provided a roadmap for the music's twists and turns. He improvises his parts while hewing closely to the compositions' rhythmic forms. The two have rehearsed tirelessly in order to execute the pieces as precisely as possible while still playing with a sense of freedom. Together they are explorers on a quest to discover what unknown truths might lie within this music.

For Mitchell, who counts pianists such as Andrew Hill, Paul Bley, Muhal Richard Abrams and Keith Jarrett as inspirations, "the lineage of jazz is very important to me. I make a point of trying to play things that have not been played before while at the same time not disavowing anything that has come before." Packed with wild gyrations of rhythm and counterpoint, the pieces on Fiction are like some warped amalgam of Thelonious Monk, Chopin, and Autechre. The music pushes and pulls against form, a sometimes-hiccuping, often-digressing perpetual motion machine of variations on a theme. Seeming not wholly of this world, Fiction is a figment of Mitchell's febrile imagination and a landmark in the possibilities of composition and improvisation."-Pi Recordings

Artist Biographies:

"Matt Mitchell is a pianist and composer interested in the intersections of various strains of acoustic, electric, composed, and improvised new music. He currently composes for and leads several ensembles featuring many of the current foremost musicians and improvisers, including Tim Berne, Kim Cass, Caroline Davis, Kate Gentile, Ben Gerstein, Sylvaine Hélary, Jon Irabagon, Travis Laplante, Ava Mendoza, Miles Okazaki, Ches Smith, Chris Speed, Tyshawn Sorey, Chris Tordini, Anna Webber, Dan Weiss, and Katie Young.

He is an anchor member of several significant creative music ensembles which integrate composed and improvised music, including Tim Berne's Snakeoil, the Dave Douglas Quintet, John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Bird Calls, Jonathan Finlayson's Sicilian Defense, Dan Weiss's Large Ensemble, Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse, the Darius Jones Quartet, Kate Gentile's Mannequins, Mario Pavone's Blue Dialect Trio, Anna Webber's Simple Trio, Ches Smith's We All Break, Michael Attias' Spun Tree, Ohad Talmor's Grand Ensemble, and Quinsin Nachoff's Flux. He is also among the core performers of John Zorn's Bagatelles.

Musicians with whom he performs and has performed include Jon Irabagon, Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet + 1, JD Allen, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green's Apex, Rez Abbasi's Invocation, Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler, Ralph Alessi's Baida Quartet, Dave King's Indelicate duo, Amir ElSaffar, Marc Ducret, David Torn, Vernon Reid, Clarence Penn and Penn Station, Linda Oh, Rudy Royston, Allison Miller, Donny McCaslin, Brad Shepik, and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society.

He has taught extensively with the Brooklyn-based School for Improvisational Music, as well as at the New School, NYU, and the Siena Jazz Workshop. He is also a 2015 receipient of a Doris Duke Impact Award and a 2012 recipient of a Pew Fellowship from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage."

-Matt Mitchell Website (

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"Born in San Diego, CA and raised in Sacramento, Ches Smith came up in a scene of punks and metal musicians who were listening to and experimenting with jazz and free improvisation. He studied philosophy at the University of Oregon before relocating to the San Francisco Bay area in 1995. After a few years of playing with obscure bands and intensive study with drummer / educator Peter Magadini, he enrolled in the graduate program at Mills College in Oakland at the suggestion of percussionist William Winant. There he studied percussion, improvisation, and composition with Winant, Fred Frith, Pauline Oliveros and Alvin Curran. One of Winant's first "assignments" for Ches was to sub in his touring gig at the time, Mr. Bungle (here he met bassist / composer Trevor Dunn who would later hire him for the second incarnation of his Trio-Convulsant). During his time at Mills, Ches co-founded two bands: Theory of Ruin (with Fudgetunnel / Nailbomb frontman Alex Newport), and Good for Cows (w/ Nels Cline Singers' Devin Hoff). He currently performs and records with Xiu Xiu, and Secret Chiefs 3. He has also performed with Ben Goldberg, Annie Gosfield, Wadada Leo Smith, John Tchicai, Fred Frith, and Trevor Dunn. In addition to Ceramic Dog, he also leads his two of his own projects, Congs for Brums and These Arches. He currently spends his time between Los Angeles, San Francisco and Brooklyn."

-Ches Smith Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

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