Roscoe Mitchell and Thomas Bucknerreview
8 O'Clock: Two Improvisations


Mr. Mitchell's innovation as a solo performer, his role in the resurrection of long neglected woodwind instruments of extreme register, and his reassertion of the composer into what has traditionally been an improvisational form have placed him at the forefront of contemporary music for over thirty years.

He is a founding member of the world reknowned Art Ensemble of Chicago, and the Association for the the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Mr. Mitchell is the recipient of many honors and awards inluding The International Jazz Critics Poll, Down Beat Magazine [Composer "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition", Best Jazz Group (Established)-Art Ensemble of Chicago, Record of the Year-Nonaah]; Jazz Personality of the Year, City of Madison, Wisconsin; Certifcate of Appreciation, The St. Louis Public Schools Role Model Experiences Program; Honorary Citizen of Atlanta, GA; The Jazz Masters Award, Arts Midwest; Outstanding Service to Jazz Education Award, National Association of Jazz Educators; Certificate of Appreciation, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Smithsonian Institution; and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Image Award.

He has received numerous composition and performance grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; Michigan State University matching grant; the Minnesota Composer's Forum; Meet the Composer, Cultural Series Grant, Center for International Performance and Exhibition, Chicago IL; Mutable Music; the Comnicut Foundation; the Wisconsin Arts Board; the Institut de Recherche at Coordination Acoustique Musique, Paris; the John Cage Award for Music-Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, Inc.; Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission Project Grant, Madison Committee for the Arts; and the Madison Festival of the Lakes Grant.

Mr. Mitchell is the founder of the Creative Arts Collective of East Lansing, Michigan, The Sound Ensemble, Space, The Roscoe Mitchell Quartet, the Roscoe Mitchell New Chamber Ensemble, and Roscoe Mitchell and the Note Factory. His teaching credits include the University of Wisconsin, the University of Illinois and California Institute of the Arts, the AACM School of Music, the Creative Music Studio, and numerous workshops and artists-in-residence positions throughout the world.



For over thirty years, new music baritone Thomas Buckner has been recognized for his varied accomplishments as a performer, producer, and promoter, of some of the most creative and challenging music of our time. Through his live and recorded work with both established and emerging composers and improvisers, Buckner energetically pursues activity in a wide range of musical contexts; from chamber works and orchestral pieces to jazz-oriented improvisations; from computer enhanced electronic works to multi-media theater pieces, Buckner continues to merge genres and break barriers in his on-going search for the yet-to-be-imagined. He has performed his own concerts, as well as in association with a large number of ensembles, throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

Buckner works regularly with composers Robert Ashley, Roscoe Mitchell, Alvin Lucier,

Pauline Oliveros, Jon Gibson, David Behrman, Bun Ching Lam, David First, Jin Hi Kim, Ushio Torikai, Annea Lockwood, David Wessel, Stephen Dickman, Mel Graves,"Blue" Gene Tyranny, Leroy Jenkins, and many others. He performs numerous solo concerts in which he premieres works commissioned especially for his voice, most recently presenting his annual recital at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City, where he premiered new works by Larry Austin, Stephen Dickman, and Henry Threadgill. He has sung his own improvisational compositions throughout the world, including performances at the Asian Contemporary Music Festival in South Korea, and the Other Minds Festival in San Francisco.

The main focus of Buckner’s career has always been performing -- some recent concerts include: the European premier of Roscoe Mitchell’s "Fallen Heroes" at the Prague Spring Festival with the Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble; an improvisational performance at the Grenoble Museum (France) as part of the Grenoble Jazz Festival with saxophonist Joseph Jarman in an environment created by sculptor Alain Kirili; a duo concert with tenor William Brown at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco; a series of performances in Japan, featuring a duo concert with pianist Aki Takehashi at the Now Music Series in Sapporo, a performance of the music of composer Ushio Torikai in Matsumoto, two nights of group improvisation performances at the Festival Beyond Innocence in Kobe, and the world premier of Robert Ashley’s newest opera Dust in Yokohama; plus numerous solo concerts in the United States, including performances at Greenwich House Arts (NYC), the Erie Art Museum (Erie, PA), the University of Maryland (Baltimore), and North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC).

Buckner began experimenting with the creative voice techniques and improvisational settings that have become his trademark during the 1960s. A classically trained vocalist, he started his performing career in Berkeley, California, where he resided from 1967-1983. While there, Buckner founded 1750 Arch Concerts, which presented over one hundred music events a year for eight years, and 1750 Arch Records, which released over fifty creative record albums. He was also a vocal soloist with, and co-director of, the 23-piece Arch Ensemble, which performed and recorded the work of 20th century composers.

Upon arriving in New York City in 1983, Buckner began to work with the internationally renowned composer Robert Ashley. He performed the lead role in the Ashley operas Atalanta (Acts of God) and eL/Aficionado (written especially for Buckner), and has had major roles in many of Ashley’s other works, including Balseros and the Now Eleanor’s Idea series. Buckner has performed with Ashley’s company throughout the world, including appearances at the Avignon Festival, Festival d’Automne a Paris, and the Strasbourg Musical Festival in France, and in New York at BAM’s Next Wave Festival and at The Kitchen’s Electronic Cafe International. He currently appears in Ashley’s newest opera, Dust, which premiered in Yokohama, Japan in late 1998, and was presented at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1999.

Buckner also performs in an extensive array of electronic pieces and multi-media theater works. He is a featured vocalist in Morton Subotnick’s media poem Intimate Immensity, which had its world premier at the 1997 Lincoln Center Summer Festival, and has been presented in Los Angeles at the Japanese American Theater and the CAL Arts Theater, and at ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany. He performs in Daniel Rothman’s multi-media chamber opera Cezanne’s Doubt, which has been presented at Musicprotokoll in Graz, Austria, Merkin Concert Hall in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Scottish Rite Temple in Oakland, CA. Buckner also performs in Tom Hamilton’s Off-Hour Wait State, an electronic environment with soloists, most recently at CNMAT at UC Berkeley, the Fresh Sounds Series at Spruce Street Forum in San Diego, and as part of the i/EAR Series at the Rennselear Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.

Since the early 1960s Buckner has worked closely with composer/performer Roscoe Mitchell, one of the founding members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. In 1995, their on-going collaboration resulted in the acclaimed Roscoe Mitchell New Chamber Ensemble CD "Pilgrimage", on the Lovely Music label. They also produced the CD "First Meeting" (1995) on Knitting Factory Works, on which Buckner is guest vocalist with Mitchell and pianist Borah Bergman. More recently, Buckner and the Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble performed the world premiere Mitchell’s "Fallen Heroes" at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and at the Prague Spring Festival.

Buckner also maintains an active relationship with pianist Joseph Kubera, one of the world’s foremost interpreters of contemporary music. For over a decade they have performed together as both a duo and as part of several larger ensembles. Some recent appearances include the Yachats Festival (Oregon) and Composers Concordance (NYC).

Buckner’s three solo CDs, "Full Spectrum Voice" (1991), "Sign of the Times" (1994), and "Inner Journey" (1998), all feature commissioned works by an impressive array of composers and are available on the Lovely Music label. He also appears on various recordings of the operas of Robert Ashley, as well as on CDs by Annea Lockwood, Sorrel Hays, Daniel Rothman, Stephen Dickman, Alvin Lucier, Deep Listening Band, Jin Hi Kim and Elodie Lauten.

As a concert producer, Buckner seeks to promote creative contemporary music and to expand its audience and repertoire. For the past eleven seasons he has curated and co-produced the World Music Institute’s Interpretations series in New York City, which presents twelve concerts a year, focusing on the interaction between contemporary composers and their interpreters. His on-going efforts to develop, encourage and recognize the growing community of new music specialists was formally acknowledged in 1996, when Mr. Buckner was awarded the American Music Center’s Letter of Distinction, in recognition of his significant contributions to the field of contemporary music.


Roscoe Mitchell & Thomas Buckner
The full spectrum voice of baritone Buckner has been integral to the successful realization of Robert Ashley's operatic oeuvre; it has also been heard for more than two decades in questing improvisations alongside multi-instrumentalist Mitchell. Recorded one evening last December, this CD documents a further stage in the duo's ongoing research. The former Art Ensemble of Chicago musician plays flute and percussion as well as alto and soprano saxophones; Buckner couples evident formal training with freedom to roam. Individual sounds and occasional phrases are placed scrupulously within the field of silence. Relationships among the sounds become apparent with time; patterns emerge and dissolve. Julian Cowley, Wire

Roscoe Mitchell/Thomas Buckner - 8 O’Clock: Two Improvisations
Mutable Music 17505-2

Baritone Thomas Buckner and saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell have been playing together for many years. The former’s record label, Mutable Music, reissued early in 2001 the two Space LPs they recorded during the early 1980s with Gerald Oshita. It was only fitting that, after this nostalgic step, a new recording would follow to re-inscribe their collaboration in present times. 8 O’Clock: Two Improvisations was recorded in a studio, a December evening in 2000. As the years passed, Buckner’s voice lost its slightly affected tone and gained depth, roundness, and flexibility. Roscoe Mitchell’s participation in the AACM and the Art Ensemble of Chicago made him a legend. Here he performs on alto and soprano saxophone, but also on flute and percussion. The sound palette is therefore quite wide for a duo. The first improvisation lasts 45 minutes, the second a little over 20 minutes. Both focus on the deep understanding existing between the two improvisers. The music never escalates, it remains calm, delicate, almost restrained at times. The second improv follows an even sparser mood. Listeners will be more used to Mitchell’s horn playing, but the time he spends on small percussion instruments is welcomed: it brings a change of pace and triggers a new set of inflections from Buckner. The performance lacks some involvement but remains enjoyable throughout. - François Couture

Francois Couture
Writer/journalist specialized in demanding music
Writer for the All-Music Guide
Producer of Delire Actuel, CFLX.

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