Published May 19, 2019On paper, this pairing seems strange. Elder statesman of jazz Roscoe Mitchell — founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, which celebrates a half-century of trailblazing this year — and Camae Ayewa, aka Moor Mother, a relatively new voice in the field of poetry and performance. In person, any doubts were quickly put to rest.
Starting on soprano saxophone, Mitchell expressed short, sharp exclamation points into the night, setting a scene for Moor Mother to begin her poetic narrative, subtitled "The Black Drop." Ayewa occasionally applied electronic effects to her voice, but for the most part, her message was direct, powerful, and unwavering.
Mitchell turned from saxophone to a bell-laden percussion station where he spent most of the performance, clanging out warning signals while Ayewa drew from sections of her poetry book and album, Fetish Bones, with skilled summations from the past and future, and their unfortunate convergence, returning again and again to the exclamation, "I will not be satisfied."
So strong was Ayewa´s presence that Mitchell felt occasionally relegated to a supporting role, but at a late point, he returned to the saxophone, sat and unleashed a very long, very primal and emotionally wracking high single note, modulated for what seemed like long minutes via circular breathing. In those moments, it was easy to visualize the bond between the duo: both sensitive artists, one living long enough to see the injustices of his youth return to the surface, the other a student of that history and first-hand witness to its contemporary effects. They will not be satisfied. Not yet.