Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lefties Have Rights Too...

...but not in this case. In this case pianist Robert Mitchell has tucked away his right hand to play twelve pieces only with his left on the extraordinary recording "The Glimpse" (Whirlwind 2013).

Robert Mitchell: The GlimpseBeing a lefty (as well as a lousy pianist), I looked forward to hearing this recording, waiting for it to arrive from Whirlwind Records, a U.K. label with a number of fascinating CDs that need more attention here in the U.S. Ten of the twelve tracks are originals by Mitchell. The other two are "Prelude No.6 by Federico Mompou, a classical composer of Spanish/French heritage; and "Nocturne for the Left Hand Only" by Fred Hersch.

Mitchell began studying piano at age 6, and was trained in the U.K. conservatory system, receiving a BSC degree at City University in London, which included studies at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He came from a musical family and early on was exposed to western classical music as well as world music. Over time he started blending these traditions with his love of soul, rhythm and blues, and pop music, a stew that helped to form his own musical sensibilities. His emergence onto the jazz scene was the result of hearing the playing of Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson, which he states “[occurred] at just the right time for my ears and heart. ” In the early 90s, he played with two London-based groups, Quite Sane and Tomorrow’s Warriors, one a fusion/hip-hop band and one a bebop/hardbop band.  His ecclectic views on music led him to work with Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, Courtney Pine and Steve Williamson, among others.

To date, he has recorded seven albums of his own, participated in over 100 projects as a sideman and has performed in more than 30 countries. His current work focuses his ensemble Panacea; solo performances: and his ongoing collaborations with Cuban violinist Omar Puente and Cuban percussionist Ernesto Simpson. His solo efforts included his fascination with one-handed works, and he will be curating a festival for this music in London in 2013. This recording, "The Glimpse" is another part of that fascination, which he has shared graciously with the rest of us on this fine disc.

Mitchell's notes on the CD are fabulous and a must for the listener to read. He discusses the biases against those of us who are left-handed, the tradition of left-hand only music, the role of the piano that makes it possible, and mulls over some larger issues about left-handedness that are interesting to ponder. Then there are the notes for specific songs. The album begins with “Amino”, an opening statement and tribute to “those magical building blocks of life who have original left and right handed versions”. “Zuni Lore” is dedicated to the tribe who venerate left handedness as a good sign, and is an elegant piece.  “Prelude No. 6” is a lovely and lilting song that blends the jazz and classical traditions beautifully. Other highlights are the quiet, serene mood of "Lullaby No. 1", a piece dedicated to his young daughter as she figures out if she will be left or right handed;  the pensive "The Sage" dedicated to "thinkers everywhere"; and “Nocturne For The Left Hand Alone” a mini-masterpiece by Fred Hersch. 

The music is recorded beautifully and Mitchell's touch and nuances come to the fore throughout. The music is simple but lovely, and spacious as well, with plenty of time given to contemplation of its simple beauty. From the light touch of "Alice's Touch" to the angular defiance of "Leftitude", Mitchell explores all possibilities for this one-handed set without resorting to gimmicks.

This is a work of simple beauty and emotion worth listening to by those who love crystal clear, impressionistic piano music.

No comments:

Post a Comment