Tyler Mitchell: Dancing Shadows

Sun Ra Arkestra bassist leads a date featuring Arkestra reedman Marshall Allen and heavy with Saturnine influence


Bass player Tyler Mitchell is a bass player who appears to happily pursue a career that takes in both the more traditional areas of jazz and the sharper, freer end of improvised music. His associations with Sun Ra go back to the 80s and in recent years he returned to the Arkestra fold under the leadership of ultra-veteran saxophonist Marshall Allen – fast approaching his hundredth year.

Half the compositions on Dancing Shadows are wholly or partly credited to the man who claimed he emanated from Saturn, with Mitchell contributing three of his own. Allen is the main soloist and introduces the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) on a couple of numbers – an instrument falling into the “acquired taste” category.

Although free blowing abounds on such pieces as Spaced Out and Marshall The Deputy, for the most part the music builds upon themes and melodies, with only Allen going outside. It kicks off with the familiar Interstellarlowways, a tune whose opening bars are reminiscent of Tenderly. Mitchell lays down a steady 4/4 on this opener only marginally broken up by drummer Smith and totally ignored by Allen as he contributes his statutory bleats and smears.

The other horn players, Hemmingway and Manzini, seem comfortable delivering more conventional solos, the former coming out of the hard-bop tradition on Enlightenment, the latter easily distinguishable from the Arkestra front-man throughout the dozen selections. Probably the most engaging option is Monk’s Skippy, given a funky feel courtesy of Wayne Smith, whilst the title track is a raucous blow from the reeds at breakneck speed, surely a wild concoction the long-departed SR would have approved of.

Devotees of Sun Ra will find almost certainly find this to their liking, leaving the curious to make up their own minds.

Interstellarlowways; Spaced Out; Angels & Demons At Play; Skippy; Nico; Dancing Shadows; Carefree; Marshall The Deputy; Nico Revisited; Space Travelers; Enlightenment; A Call For Demons (47.50)
Marshall Allen (as, EVI); Mitchell (b); Chris Hemmingway (ts); Nicoletta Manzini (as); Wayne Smith (d); Elson Nascimento (pc). Philadelphia, 9 June 2021.
Mahakala Music MAHA-020