This disc should be celebrated as the first and only musical meeting between a pair of iconoclastic titans on winds and reeds, Yusef Lateef and Roscoe Mitchell. Recorded at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in November, 2008, Voice Prints captures the essence of group improvisation as practiced by avant-garde elders who make their own instruments and approach music in terms of spiritual philosophy as much as creative craft.
Lateef was 88 when these tracks were recorded, but he was still spry enough to showcase his sense of spatial tension and the dynamic textural command on flute and tenor saxophone, which, along with his seminal mixing of American jazz with Asian and Middle Eastern music, was a forerunner for the AACM musical collective out of Chicago during the ’60s and ’70s. That collective, not coincidentally, forms the base of the rest of this quartet — Mitchell, Rudolph and multi-instrumentalist Douglas Ewart. The half-hour title track and 20-minute “Sound Search” both merit the broad canvas, the former for its koan-like mix of simplicity with depth and circumspection, and the latter for the elegant rising and falling of intensity on either side of the mid-song crescendo.
Because everyone but Rudolph plays both saxophone and flute and everyone but Lateef uses percussion, it’s not easy to ascertain who is playing what. But as John Litweiler points out in the liner notes, a questing serenity pervades much of this music. Honing in on the individual calls and responses and tensions and releases tucked within this abiding state of grace is less important than the overall strength of its ambiance. Voice Prints leaves a soft impression that has staying power.