There are few people alive that can blow a horn with the power and technical proficiency of Roscoe Mitchell. He is a true force of nature; an absolute titan. Joined up again with drummer Mike Reed on this recording from 2015, the duo are on fire from beginning to end on this 37-minute performance. They may not be going 100 mph the entire time, but by the end of the piece, Mitchell isn’t the only one catching his breath.
One of my favorite aspects of The Ritual and The Dance is that it’s obvious how much Mitchell and Reed like playing together. There’s a joyous catharsis throughout that explodes out of the speakers. It would be easy to think Reed is riding second saddle to Mitchell given the latter’s stature, but they are total equals here. Reed pushes Mitchell forward just as much as the opposite is true.
Blitzing rhythms come in rapid fire waves, a staccato avalanche that flows with precision. In the first half, Mitchell is making these mesmerizing, lightning quick runs on his alto that leave me breathless simply listening to them. His intensity is spellbinding. Through his saxophone, he is speaking an alien language and the manner in which Reed responds and presses on it’s clear he understands completely. The Ritual and The Dance plays out for 37 minutes like a chaotic dialogue between the two, each taking their turn at the fore. It’s enthralling, inspiring, and entertaining as hell.
The Ritual and The Dance is an incredible document of a singular performance. Roscoe Mitchell and Mike Reed have this understanding that is transcendent and any opportunity to peer into it and experience its fruit is a blessing. If we could just harness the energy on this album, the whole damn world would radiate. Huge recommendation.