The Squid's Ear Magazine

Mitchell, Matt: Oblong Aplomb [2 CDs]d (Out Of Your Head Records)

Expanding on pianist/composer Matt Mitchell's 2013 duo album Fiction with Ches Smith is this double-duo release over 2 CDs, one CD with Smith performing on drums, gongs, percussion, vibraphone, glockenspiel, tam-tam & timpani, and one CD with drummer/percussionist Kate Gentile, performing Mitchell's fascinatingly convoluted works that integrate composition with improvisation.

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product information:

UPC: 198015248361

Label: Out Of Your Head Records
Catalog ID: OOYH 019
Squidco Product Code: 33379

Format: 2 CDs
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Big Orange Sheep in Brooklyn, New York, on July 29th and 30th, 2022, and August 15th and 16th, 2022, by Daniel Goodwin and David Turk.


Matt Mitchell-piano, compositions

Kate Gentile-drums, percussion

Ches Smith-drums, gongs, percussion, vibraphone, glockenspiel, tam tam, timpani

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"The much-anticipated follow up to Mitchell's debut album Fiction (2013), the tour-de-force duo recording with longtime percussion counterpart Ches Smith. Oblong Aplomb not only takes the duo concepts initiated on Fiction to the absolute extreme, it also doubles in size, adding an entire disc with drummer Kate Gentile. Gentile is featured in duo with Mitchell on tracks 1-12 Oblong (disc 1), and Smith takes over on tracks 13-24 Aplomb (disc 2). Oblong Aplomb may also act as an unintentional anniversary celebration, marking 10 years since the release of Fiction, which in turn denotes 10 years since Mitchell exploded onto the NYC scene as a band leader. On the impact Mitchell has had since, Will Laymen wrote in PopMatters: "Mitchell is special [...] because he weaves together understanding of perhaps four distinct and critical jazz piano traditions, pulling in impressionistic texture from Bill Evans/Hancock, ravenous but dynamic attack from Cecil Taylor/Don Pullen, the rhythmic rushof Bud Powell, and the comfort with abstract melodic logic of Paul Bley. Does Mitchell, therefore, sound schizophrenic or derivative? No-over and over he sounds like himself: the most complete and well-integrated improvising pianist of the last 15 years." Before taking a deep dive into the forthcoming Oblong Aplomb, it might be helpful to review the origin story that birthed this duo project, as part of which Ches Smith played an absolutely crucial role. The following is excerpted from the press release for Fiction on Pi Recordings: "The pieces on Fiction were originally conceived by Mitchell 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 [...] 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." This project has come a long way since 2013, and Mitchell and Smith have continued to develop and refine their approach to playing duo. Soon after meeting Matt in 2011 Kate Gentile became very interested in the etudes, spending considerable time studying and playing them. She even was present at the recording sessions for Fiction in December 2012. The musical connection between Mitchell and Gentile has developed into one of the most fruitful and distinct collaborations in creative improvised music today, having appeared together on Mitchell's A Pouting Grimace (2017) and Phalanx Ambassadors (2019), Gentile's Mannequins (2017) and in her new band Find Letter X, and their jointproject Snark Horse, who released a 6-disc set on Pi Recordings in 2021. In the liner notes to Oblong Aplomb, Mitchell makes it clear just how important each percussionist is to the project: "Kate, my closest musical and creative collaborator (and closest person) with whom I share more overlapping musical and aesthetic predilections than anyone I've ever known. Ches, without whom this and much of my recent music would have been inconceivable, and with whom I learned how to learn these pieces." So the musical connection heard here is obviously a deep one. And while they didn't pen any of the music themselves, both Smith and Gentile have made this music their own, each contributing their incomparable sounds and rhythmic approach that have firmly placed them in the vanguard of modern creative drummers. As for Mitchell, Oblong Aplomb is yet another pillar in a discography that, over the last 10 years, is unparalleled by any active artist in jazz and creative music today. And as his recentrecordings as a leader have leaned heavily on dense instrumentation to serve the compositions, Oblong Aplomb's return to the more bare bones duo approach firmly reminds the listener what an exceptional force he is as a pianist. There is quite frankly no one on the path he is forging with his recorded output, both as a composer and instrumentalist. If you need more proof, it's hard to imagine better company to keep than stated by NPR's Francis Davis: "Nearly 60 years after Ornette Coleman's The Shape Of Jazz To Come and exactly 50 since Roscoe Mitchell's Sound introduced the rest of the world to the Chicago AACM, the avant-garde can claim its own intelligentsia. [Vijay] Iyer, [Tyshawn] Sorey, [Craig] Taborn, Nicole Mitchell and Matt Mitchell are among its leaders, and Roscoe Mitchell...and even Steve Coleman...among its revered elders."-Out Of Your Head

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 (

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

"Kate Gentile is a Brooklyn-based drummer and composer interested in forward-thinking creative music, including the synthesis of elements from many kinds of music.

In addition to her quartet with Jeremy Viner, Matt Mitchell and Adam Hopkins on her debut album Mannequins (June 2017, Skirl Records), other projects Kate is a part of include Snark Horse, in which she co-leads and shares compositional duties with pianist Matt Mitchell; Mitchell's projects Phalanx Ambassadors and A Pouting Grimace, Dustin Carlson's septet Air Ceremony, and Davy Lazar's trumpet/drums duo Pluto's Lawyer.

Kate has also worked with Michael Attias, Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Cloud Becomes Your Hand, Marty Ehrlich, Michael Formanek, God Is My Co-Pilot, Helado Negro, Chris Speed, Anna Webber, and John Zorn."

-Kate Gentile Website (

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

"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.

Track Listing:


1. All Immoderation 4:02

2. Blinkered Hoopla 9:26

3. Escalatory Chicanery 4:28

4. Ruly 4:21

5. Slarm Biffle 13:43

6. Outre Exemplars 6:49

7. Orrery 3:40

8. Scrutiny 3:18

9. Covertly Overt 6:12

10. Equanimity 4:24

11. Oneiric Argot 5:31

12. Giggle Trigger 2:29


1. The Amused 4:24

2. Chiasma 3:29

3. Doleful 6:06

4. Full Koala 5:34

5. Concentricals 4:44

6. Labile 3:17

7. Correctly Profane 5:28

8. Numen 11:28

9. Flit 4:15

10. Inveiglers 3:43

11. Ingenuous 6:24

12. Baleful 5:30

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Duo Recordings
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music
Recent Releases and Best Sellers

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