Roscoe Mitchell’s Quartets Celebrating 50 years of Nessa Records
Fifty years is a mighty long time for an individual to be putting out records, but Chuck Nessa has more than his prized label’s longevity to celebrate. The onetime Jazz Record Mart employee has released some of Chicago’s most significant recordings, including history-making classics by the Art Ensemble of Chicago and its individual members, Air, Leo Smith and Von Freeman. Though thick and thin, economically speaking, he has documented the scene with undiminished devotion. When Nessa issues or reissues an album, you can count on it meeting the highest artistic standards.
No artist embodies the vision and uncompromising values of Nessa Records more than saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, who appeared on the label’s first release, Numbers 1 and 2 – a pre-Art Ensemble effort credited to trumpeter Lester Bowie – and is captured on recent gems of his own including Celebrating Fred Anderson and Four Ways. It was Roscoe who encouraged Nessa to start his own label back in 1967, having worked with him on his landmark debut, Sound. That album was released on Bob Koester’s Delmark Records. . Nessa was a production assistant on the project.
To mark the anniversary, Mitchell will lead two quartets. One will flash back to the Sound era via the presence of drummer Alvin Fielder and trumpeter Fred Berry, with young bassist Junius Paul acting as surrogate for the late Malachi Favors. The other foursome will team Mitchell with one of the standout players on the contemporary free jazz scene, cellist Tomeka Reid (whose recent album with saxophonist Nick Mazzarella, Signaling, came out on Nessa) plus Junius Paul and veteran drummer Vincent Davis. At 76, Mitchell has 25-plus years on Nessa Records, but like the label, he’s still at the top of his game.