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*Roscoe Mitchell was born on this date in 1940. He is a Black composer, jazz instrumentalist, and educator.
Mitchell was born in Chicago, Illinois, and began playing saxophone and clarinet at around twelve. His brother, Norman, introduced Mitchell to jazz. While attending Englewood High School in Chicago, he furthered his clarinet study. In the 1950s, he joined the Army and was stationed in Germany. He played in military parades with fellow saxophonists Albert Ayler and Rubin Cooper. He also studied under the first clarinetist of the Heidelberg Symphony while in Germany.
Mitchell returned to the United States in the early 1960s, relocated to Chicago, and performed in a band with Wilson Junior College undergraduates Malachi Favors (bass), Joseph Jarman, Henry Threadgill, and Anthony Braxton (all saxophonists). Mitchell also studied with Muhal Richard Abrams and played in the Muhal Richard Abrams' Experimental Band, starting in 1961. In 1965, Mitchell was one of the first members of the non-profit organization Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), along with Jodie Christian (piano), Steve McCall (drums), and Phil Cohran (composer).
The following year, Mitchell, Lester Bowie (trumpet), Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre (tenor saxophone), Favors, Lester Lashley (trombone), and Alvin Fielder (drums) recorded their first studio album, Sound. From 1967, Mitchell and others performed as the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble, then the Art Ensemble, and finally, in 1969, were billed as the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The group lived and performed in Europe from 1969 to 1971. Mitchell and the others returned to the States in 1971.
They established the Creative Arts Collective (C.A.C.) in 1974 based in East Lansing, Michigan, and frequently performed in auditoriums at Michigan State University. Mitchell also formed the Sound Ensemble in the early 1970s, an "outgrowth of the C.A.C.," in his words. In the 1990s, Mitchell started experimenting with classical music, forming a trio called Trio Space. He then conceived the Note Factory in 1992 with various old and new collaborators as another evolution of the Sound Ensemble.
He lived in Madison, Wisconsin, and performed with a re-assembled Art Ensemble of Chicago. In 1999, the band was hit hard by the death of Bowie, but Mitchell fought off the urge to recast his position in the group, stating simply, "You can't do that.” The band continued despite the loss. Mitchell has worked with younger musicians in various ensembles and combinations. In 2007, Mitchell currently lives in Oakland, CA. The Neutral Milk Hotel chose Mitchell to perform at the 2012 All Tomorrow's Parties festival in Minehead, England.
Mitchell has taught at the University of Illinois, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and the California Institute of the Arts. From 2007 to 2019, Mitchell has taught at Mills College in Oakland, California.