‘Music, especially now, is essential to continually reveal our potential, and to speed our evolution towards it. We are fighting the devaluation of depth, integrity, and the development of the spirit especially in the West’
In recent years, the art of Jazz has become more and more entrenched in pedantic study and technical proficiency for its own sake at the expense of the profound search for Truth and the jubilant exposition of free expression represented by its most revered masters. Composer/pianist Robert Mitchell is a throwback to that powerful tradition of artistic mastery in pursuit of transcendence. Whether performing in the solo context or with his 4/5-piece ensemble Panacea or any of his other formats, Robert’s focus is upon the highest ideals of the essence of Jazz.
Like many artists who grew up in the post-60s environment, Robert was exposed to a full gamut of musical disciplines from hardcore Western Classicism through World music traditions. Growing up in a musical family – his father was a vocalist who organized variety shows and participated in the great production of Carmen Jones at London’s Young Vic Theatre – Robert began serious piano studies at the age of 6 in the established UK conservatory system. Blending this with a listening love of Soul, R&B and popular music of the 70s/80s, Robert began to develop his own sense of musical expression.
An epiphany occurred upon hearing the legendary Jazz pianists Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson “at just the right time for my ears and heart,” provoking the young pianist to “understand the components that made their approaches so special….and to begin discovering how to make my own versions of that special beauty.” Continuing to pursue his formal education, a BSC degree followed at City University in London, which included a course of study at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
In the early 90s, Robert began to emerge as an important member of the London scene with two groups Quite Sane and Tomorrow’s Warriors. Poles apart in their music and purpose – New York influenced fusion/hip-hop vs. 40s-60s bebop/hardbop – the diversity foretold Robert’s wide-angle view of Jazz expression. This quickly led to further involvement with internationally known figures from both sides of the Atlantic, including Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, Courtney Pine and Steve Williamson.
All of these experiences focused Robert more heavily upon his personal expression of what he needed to contribute as composer and bandleader. “I am convinced that each era of great creativity has been marked by a consistency of intent, and within bands, a consistency of personnel.” In the current environment, that consistency of personnel is quite difficult to maintain, but with consistency of intent and an organic approach that Robert explains as “meeting every unexpected situation with a solution,” Robert has forged a variety of structures within which he has been able to pursue the full scope of his powerfully expansive musical vision.
Over his nearly 20 years entrenched in the art of music, Robert has recorded seven albums of his own projects, participated in over 100 projects as a sideman and has performed in more than 30 countries. Robert has won awards in the UK – BBC Jazz Awards (Innovation, as part of the F-ire Collective), Best Jazz Album (BBC DJ Gilles Peterson Worldwide Awards) has been nominated for many more. Robert is proud to be a Steinway Artist.
These days his primary focal points include his long-running ensemble Panacea; solo performance (including a current fascination with one-handed works, of which he will be curating a festival in London in 2013); ongoing collaborations with Cuban violinist Omar Puente and Cuban percussionist Ernesto Simpson; and a tribute to Nina Simone with U.S. vocalist Jhelisa Anderson (reuniting for the first time since their highly acclaimed UK tour with Mavis Staples in 2008). In addition to all of this Robert is involved in a variety of institutional and private educational activities.
Working with longtime U.S. arts consulting and management organization, Outward Visions (George Russell, Steve Reich, John Zorn, Art Ensemble of Chicago, World Saxophone Quartet), Robert is organizing a Collective of innovative and prominent UK musicians and developing recording projects with Whirlwind and Edition Records. As his reputation has consistently grown as one of the UK’s most serious and respected composer/pianists, Robert Mitchell is ideally suited to be a powerful force in the newest developments of both the music and its business environment
“I wish to encapsulate the feeling of endless upward progress – to remove the apparent divisions between inspiration, notation, deployment, and performance. And to appeal to the idea that there is no limit to the amount of beauty we can reveal in the universe”