Collaborating on great Black music from the ancient to the future | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Collaborating on great Black music from the ancient to the future

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Moor Mother and Roscoe Mitchell met in 2017 when they played back-to-back at Skaņu Mežs, an experimental music festival in Riga, Latvia. Mitchell, who plays a vast assortment of woodwind and percussion instruments, got his start in the mid-60s as an early member of visionary Black arts organization the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. By the end of the decade, he’d cofounded the Art Ensemble of Chicago and established himself as a solo artist; he improvises and composes music that encompasses jazz, classical, and experimental approaches. Camae Ayewa first recorded as Moor Mother in 2012, making lo-fi mash-ups of samples, beats, noise, and incantations, but she’s been performing music, self-publishing poetry, and participating in multidisciplinary endeavors since the turn of the century. Though Mitchell and Ayewa belong to different generations, they’re both expansive thinkers, and they struck up a musical partnership when Ayewa performed on the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s 50th-anniversary recording, this year’s We Are on the Edge (Pi). On that album’s title track and “I Greet You With Open Arms,” her low voice lurks within a thicket of orchestration, intoning verses that memorialize and anticipate African American cultural accomplishments. The set that she and Mitchell have developed since then is a much more naked affair: Ayewa limits herself to her voice, treated with echo and pitch-shifting effects, while Mitchell plays just three saxophones and a few percussion instruments. As she repeats phrases, wringing new meaning out of them with each iteration, he plays flinty, fragmented pitches that match the severity of her delivery without directly commenting upon it.   v

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