Matt Mitchell (pianist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Matt Mitchell
Born (1975-07-19) July 19, 1975 (age 48)
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Years activeLate 1990s–present

Matthew Mitchell (born July 19, 1975) is an American jazz pianist and composer. He is also part of the faculty of the New York-based Center for Improvisational Music.[1]

Early life[edit]

Mitchell was born on July 19, 1975.[2] He grew up in Exton, Pennsylvania.[3] He first played the piano aged six, and composed from the age of 10.[2] He had lessons in jazz and theory at a university from the age of 12.[3] At this stage he was influenced by pianists Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock.[3]

Later life and career[edit]

Mitchell attended Indiana University for three years[2] and then, in the late 1990s, he completed a master's degree at the Eastman School of Music and settled in New York.[3] In 1999, he contacted saxophonist Tim Berne for some of his scores, but did not pursue the contact further at that point.[3] Mitchell had various jobs in New York, but chose to return to Philadelphia.[3] He then worked in a library at The University of the Arts for nine years before leaving when he had too many gigs to fit in.[3]

In 2011, Mitchell had a sextet named Central Chain.[3] In 2012, Mitchell introduced a new trio, with Chris Tordini on bass and Dan Weiss on drums.[4] In the early 2010s, Mitchell was also part of Berne's Snakeoil band, and John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble and Claudia Quintet.[5]

In 2014, Mitchell joined Rudresh Mahanthappa's band, and recorded with the saxophonist later that year.[6]

Mitchell has written and published several collections of études.[7] His 2017 release A Pouting Grimace[8] is"a 10-part suite extrapolated from a one-bar vamp reminiscent of Roscoe Mitchell's 1977 piece 'Nonaah'."[9]

Playing style[edit]

A New York Times reviewer commented in 2011 that Mitchell "feels close to the consensus language of straight-ahead jazz but wants to get beyond it. He does it with hands moving in independent parts, with polyrhythms, with music that approaches the technical level of études but that churns and whirls and leaves spaces for broad interpretation."[3] Mitchell has been described as "a chameleon, able to take on completely different musical personas across of fast array of situations."[10]

Another New York Times reviewer observed that "Mitchell has his guideposts as an improviser, including Paul Bley and Andrew Hill, pioneers of stubborn poise and self-containment".[4] Mitchell's playing reflects a thorough understanding of his predecessors but remains powerfully singular: "Mitchell is special [...] because he weaves together understanding of perhaps four distinct and critical jazz piano traditions, pulling in impressionistic texture from Bill Evans/Herbie Hancock, ravenous but dynamic attack from Cecil Taylor/Don Pullen, the rhythmic rush of Bud Powell, and the comfort with abstract melodic logic of Paul Bley. Does Mitchell, therefore, sound schizophrenic or derivative? No – over and over he sounds like himself: the most complete and well-integrated improvising pianist of the last 15 years."[11]


Mitchell commented that "I aim to think compositionally when improvising and think improvisationally when composing – trying to expand what is possible in both scenarios."[1]


Mitchell was awarded a Pew Fellowships in the Arts in 2012.[1]


An asterisk (*) indicates that the year is that of release.

As leader/co-leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes
2000 Adenium (v. 1) Scrapple As Kaktus; trio, with Aaron Meicht (trumpet), Lars Halle (drums)
2000 Adenium (v. 2) Scrapple As Kaktus; trio, with Aaron Meicht (trumpet), Lars Halle (drums)
2001 Sharing the Dry Scrapple As Kaktus; trio, with Aaron Meicht (trumpet), Lars Halle (drums)
2002 Feigner Scrapple As Feigner; trio, with Aaron Meicht (trumpet, electronics), Brendan Dougherty (drums, electronics)
2004 Laughter only Feigned Reproach Scrapple As Feigner; trio, with Aaron Meicht (electronics) and Brendan Dougherty (electronics)
2005 Vapor Squint, Antique Chromatic Scrapple Solo
2013* Fiction Pi Duo, with Ches Smith (drums)
2015* Vista Accumulation Pi Quartet, with Chris Speed (tenor sax, clarinet), Christopher Tordini (bass), Dan Weiss (drums)
2017* Førage Screwgun Solo, performing the music of Tim Berne
2017* A Pouting Grimace Pi With Scott Robinson (bass sax, contrabass clarinet), Jon Irabagon (soprano sax, sopranino sax), Ben Kono (oboe, English horn), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Anna Webber (flute), Katie Andrews (harp), Patricia Brennan (vibraphone, marimba), Ches Smith (vibraphone, glockenspiel, marimba, timpani, percussion), Dan Weiss (tabla), Kim Cass (double bass), Kate Gentile (drums, percussion)
2018* Angel Dusk Screwgun Duo, with Tim Berne (alto sax)
2019* Phalanx Ambassadors Pi With Miles Okazaki (guitar), Patricia Brennan (vibraphone, marimba), Kim Cass (double bass), Kate Gentile (drums, percussion)
2020 Spiders Out of Your Head Duo, with Tim Berne (alto sax); in concert[12]
2021 Snark Horse Pi Duo with Kate Gentile with guest appearances from the Snark Horsekestra: (Kim Cass, Ben Gerstein, Jon Irabagon, Davy Lazar, Mat Maneri, Ava Mendoza, Matt Nelson and Brandon Seabrook)
2022 One More, Please Intakt Duo, with Tim Berne (alto sax);

As sideman[edit]

Year recorded Leader Title Label
2003* Thinking Plague A History of Madness Cuneiform
2004* Thinking Plague Upon Both Your Houses Nearfest
2006* Ralph Alessi Anastomosi Abeat
2011* The Claudia Quintet What Is the Beautiful? Cuneiform
2011 Tim Berne Snakeoil ECM
2012* Michael Attias Spun Tree Clean Feed Records
2012* Darius Jones Book of Mæ'bul (Another Kind of Sunrise) AUM Fidelity
2012* Mike Lorenz Of the Woods Mike Lorenz Music
2012 Dave Douglas Be Still Greenleaf Music
2013 Tim Berne Shadow Man ECM
2013 Dave Douglas Time Travel Greenleaf Music
2014* Dan Weiss Fourteen Pi
2014* Anna Webber Simple Skirl
2014 Rudresh Mahanthappa Bird Calls ACT
2015 Mario Pavone Blue Dialect Clean Feed Records
2015* Dave Douglas Brazen Heart Greenleaf Music
2015* Dave Douglas Brazen Heart – Live at Jazz Standard Greenleaf Music
2015 Tim Berne You've Been Watching Me ECM
2015* Tineke Postma and Greg Osby Sonic Halo Challenge
2016* Quinsin Nachoff Flux Mythology
2016 Sebastian Noelle Shelter Fresh Sound New Talent
2017 Steve Coleman Morphogenesis Pi
2017* Mario Pavone Chrome Playscape
2017 Jonathan Finlayson Moving Still Pi
2017 Tim Berne Incidentals ECM
2017 (released 2018) John Hollenbeck All Can Work New Amsterdam
2017 Yuriy Galkin ...For Its Beauty Alone[13]
2018* Dan Weiss Starebaby Pi
2018 Jonathan Finlayson 3 Times Round Pi
2018* Quinsin Nachoff Path of Totality Whirlwind


  1. ^ a b c "Matthew Mitchell". The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Matt Mitchell". Scrapple Records. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ratliff, Ben (October 6, 2011) "New Pilots at the Keyboard". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b Chinen, Nate (August 10, 2012) "New Compositions from a Trio Propelled by Piano". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Layman, Will (November 22, 2013) "Matt Mitchell: Fiction".
  6. ^ Beuttler, Bill (February 2015) "Rudresh Mahanthappa – Moving the Eye". Down Beat. pp. 32, 34.
  7. ^ "Matt Mitchell Études" Archived 2013-04-01 at the Wayback Machine. Screwgun Records. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  8. ^ Ackermann, Karl (October 15, 2017). "Matthew Mitchell: A Pouting Grimace". AllAboutJazz. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  9. ^ Panken, Ted (January 2018). "Matt Mitchell – Generous Bandleader". DownBeat.
  10. ^ Ackermann, Karl (October 15, 2017) "Matthew Mitchell: A Pouting Grimace". AllAboutJazz.
  11. ^ Layman, Will (October 9, 2018) "Jonathan Finlayson's Jazz Is Cerebral and Strutting on '3 Times Round'".
  12. ^ Considine, J. D. (February 2021). "Tim Berne/ Matt Mitchell Duo: Spiders". DownBeat. Vol. 88, no. 2. p. 38.
  13. ^ Adcock, John (February 29, 2020). "Yuriy Galkin: For Its Beauty Alone". Jazz Journal. Retrieved March 29, 2020.