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Sunday, April 7, 2024

Matt Mitchell - Sunday Interview

Photo by Peter Gannushkin

  1. What is your greatest joy in improvised music?

    Perceiving the music as it flows past in time, feeling connected, whatever that may consist of in context.

  2. What quality do you most admire in the musicians you perform with?

    I value most when musicians exhibit singular focus, resulting from intense and continued study, to achieve something new.

  3. Which historical musician/composer do you admire the most?

    Way too many. Xenakis, Cecil Taylor, Zappa, Miles. Bach, Chopin, Scriabin. Duke Ellington. Morton Feldman. Monk. Stravinsky. Sun Ra. Also, deep admiration is probably a prerequisite when voluntarily studying someone. Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett. Andrew Hill.

  4. If you could resurrect a musician to perform with, who would it be?

    I’d rather frame it as getting to play with them when they were still alive but I’m “still me”. Eric Dolphy, Sam Rivers, Joe Henderson, Tony Williams, Tony Oxley. Richard Davis, Gary Peacock. Derek Bailey would have been a hoot. I feel like I’d have done well in Zappa’s band. Wayne Shorter is probably an obvious choice but he was never less than goosebumps-inducing and being in the midst of that would have been something.

  5. What would you still like to achieve musically in your life?

    Lots of things - continuing the search for new forms and sounds, maximizing what is possible for me to do in my waking hours.

  6. Are you interested in popular music and - if yes - what music/artist do you particularly like?

    Music often doesn’t do well when money dictates the content even a tiny bit, which in one sense is the definition of pop music - music where financial viability is part of the goal. But there is tons of pop/rock/soul/ music from the 60s to the present which I love. Metal and punk probably count as a special case since they originally had their popular/populist elements but continue today in the more underground sense, which is where most exploration of new things occurs. But creatively done music in these all these veins abounds and always has. Today’s actual *pop music* is mostly dire, though.

    I’d say Prince is an artist who was pretty expert at being supremely popular and incredibly creative for a very long time. I love his music.

  7. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

    An achievable thing, like “self-improvement”, or science fiction level? It would be really cool have scores and recordings of the music I hear in my dreams, which is of course always music that my brain is improvising but doesn’t exist in waking life. Usually this is unbelievably involved music that is untranscribable. Of course sometimes dream music is really stupid too.

  8. Which of your albums are you most proud of?

    I am very proud of every single one of my records as a leader or co-leader, they all have achieved exactly what I hoped they would, in the macro- and micro- sense.

    That said, my I am exceedingly happy with my upcoming solo piano album Illimitable.

  9. Once an album of yours is released, do you still listen to it? And how often?

    I do, but not often. I’ll “check in” with an older album a little just to see how I still feel about this track or that.

  10. Which album (from any musician) have you listened to the most in your life?

    Really tough to say, this goes back to when I was 12. Probably something between these albums. These are albums that I feel a sort of “total recall” with when I hear them again, and they are all still complete masterpieces.

    Miles - Nefertiti, In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew
    Eric Dolphy - Out to Lunch
    Herbie Hancock - Thrust, Maiden Voyage, The Prisoner
    Jimi Hendrix - Axis, Bold as Love
    Keith Jarrett - Facing You
    Weather Report - Black Market, Heavy Weather, I Sing the Body Electric
    Stevie Wonder - Innervisions, Songs in the Key of Life
    Yes - Relayer

  11. What are you listening to at the moment?
    Sun City Girls, Gorge Trio, Angelwings Marmalade, Encenathrakh, Effluence, Vibrations Felt in the Void, Contagious Orgasm, Roland Kayn, David Lee Myers, Jim O’Rourke’s Steamroom series, Grant Evans, Chris Weisman.

  12. What artist outside music inspires you?

    John Ashbery, A.R. Ammons, Clark Coolidge, Wallace Stevens, Pynchon, Nabokov, Beckett, Donald Barthelme, James Joyce, Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Ligotti, Laird Barron, Michael Cisco, Brian Evenson, Matthew Bartlett. Chris Onstad/Achewood.

Articles with Matt Mitchell on the Free Jazz Blog:


A.K. said...

One of my favorite musicians. And interesting, comprehensive, informative answers — better than the answers of most other interviewees. Thanks!

Matt Mitchell said...

Appreciate it, A.K.

Meant to include David Lynch in the number 12 answer. Probably lots more directors and comedians too.

Also re the number 10 answer, Jimi/Axis and the Stevie albums actually go back to when I was

Matt Mitchell said...

When I was 2 years old, I meant to say!