Dennis Mitcheltree Quartet/Trio
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Dennis Mitcheltree Quartet/Trio


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"Tenor Of The Times, Dennis Mitchel3 | Dengor Music (2006)"

By Nic Jones

It's nice to know that it's not all down to Charlie Haden when it comes to dealing with the issues of the day in jazz, and when such dealings result in music as stimulating as what's on Tenor of the Times, then the raising of cheers is entirely appropriate. The same can be said for the political standpoint that permeates this disc.
The key to the success of this music might just be integration. The members of this trio have reached a level of shared musical empathy that means they're tighter than tight, at the same time as they avoid rehashing routines and lapsing into cliches. Dennis Mitcheltree's work on tenor sax is right in keeping with the working method that implies, and on “Ijtihad,” he evokes the spirits of Dewey Redman and Charles Brackeen, neither of whom can realistically be cited as having a place in the pantheon of the run-of-the-mill.

”Halliburton Holler” lasts almost eleven minutes, and the fact that not a moment of that period is wasted shows also that this group also knows the meaning of coherence in musical communication. The momentum of the piece, punctuated by vocal exclamations of the company name referred to in the title, calls to mind the live trio sides that Sonny Rollins cut for Blue Note, but this is only a point of reference, not a template by which the musicians abide.

On a similar note, “Spiderhole Stomp” has an air about it like something from the pen of Herbie Nichols, and the stealth with which bassist Jesse Crawford walks his line, figuratively speaking, is a measure of the trio's effective integration. On “Swift Boat Twist” Bill McClellan demonstrates the bouyancy of his sense of swing, and the group as a whole demonstrates its uncommon ability to give the music some air, making for a sound that, while still in keeping with many major aspects of the tradition, indicates just how deep their own identity is.

The latter part of the album's subtitle, “Jazz & Political Discourse,” comes in its most overt form on “Go Cheney Yourself!,” wherein Dick Cheney's behaviour on the floor of the Senate is highlighted as an example of how the Bush administration is frequently guilty of the kind of behaviour it would condemn in others. That's called hypocrisy, which is presumably yet another word that George W. Bush would have to look up, assuming he knows how to use a dictionary.

All in all, this makes for a two-sided package in the best sense of that term, and the fact that it wears its heart on its figurative sleeve only makes it more rewarding.

Track listing: Go Cheney Yourself! Touch Screen Tango; Ijtihad; (or Abu Ghraib Dance Party); Limbaugh Rush (or How Liberals, Drug Abuse & Divorce Are The Ruin Of Our Great Nation); Halliburton Holler; Spiderhole Stomp; Go Cheney Yourself Jam; Swift Boat Twist; Dean Scream Mix.

Personnel: Dennis Mitcheltree: tenor saxophone, voice; Jesse Crawford: bass, voice; Bill McClellan: drums, voice.

Style: Mainstream/Bop/Hard Bop/Cool | Published: November 07, 2006 -

"Dennis Mitcheltree, Transformation"

September 2001, by Michael G. Nastos,

There have been original tenor saxophonists coming out of the spell of John Coltrane who are not Michael Brecker clones. Mitcheltree, with his full robust, literate, tuneful sound which slightly echoes 'Trane-Sonny Rollins-Joe Henderson-Yusef Lateef, is one. With music in the modern mainstream, Mitcheltree penned the majority of these nine selections backed by two different bands of equal talent. Pianists Johannes Wallmann and Brian Sharron, bassists Jesse Crawford and Jeff Hamann, and drummers Bill McClellan and Andy Algire split duties. Mitcheltree exudes not a quiet fire, but one that is stoked by post-bop tradition and tempered by the desire to move forward. This kineticism is quite evident on the opening cut "Absentikate" where a rambling progressive bop motion and complex but solid melodic and harmonic ideas are offered. "Gumbo" of course sports New Orleans shuffle trappings tacked onto hard bop. Mitcheltree's tenor is soulful, swinging, and street smart. A more contemporary 4/4 timing informs the cool swing funk of "Perspective," simultaneously nonchalant and on edge, with a tactful piano-drum workout from Wallmann and McClellan. The title track has a rhythm that seems as if it's waiting to swing, an up and down head dynamic, and a bluesy bridge section with Sharron's noticeable piano. Mitcheltree goes one up on Josh Redman for this. There are inescapable Coltrane inferences; Bud Powell's "Time Waits" is loaded with them on an extended tenor improv. An intro which recalls "Naima" leads to a modal 6/8 head with ostinato bass as a vehicle for the tenor man's improv during "Modus Operandi." Most convincing is the swinging midtempo turnaround melody of "Suppressions" with an ethnic, nay, Balkan bass intro that sounds like a darker "Impressions." Again Wallmann is outstanding in his compression of modal repetitive lines. Standards include a luscious, extra patient take on the ballad "Some Other Time" and an urgent rendition of "Caravan." The two bands must be given as much credit as Mitcheltree, for they lift the frontman to his lofty perch. This one is highly recommended. -

"Dennis Mitcheltree, Union"

March 2001, by John Barrett

Some people know the traditions; some people know what to do with them. A familiar sound creeps through "Flatbush Blues": that delicate Lester Young tenor, intoned by Dennis Mitcheltree. A tiny bit edgy, the tune has the tough nervousness you get from Thelonious Monk. Johannes Wallmann stays silent on Dennis' solo, as Monk often did - until the Coltrane quote, when he soars like Tyner. "Mosinee Mayhem" is a scream -ragged and restless, the notes skitter everyplace. Hardly mainstream, but not avant-garde; while the tone belongs to Dennis, the mood is pure Booker Ervin. Listen close to the drums; Bill McClellan is hypnotic. His beat is fierce on "Waiting for Oyarsa", and Mitcheltree talks tough. His tone becomes pungent, metallic; sort of a cross between Trane and Joe Henderson. Wallmann sketches airy chords, wrapped in sustain; Dennis honks hard and captures the 'Sixties spirit. Yes sir, this is my kind of nostalgia.
" The Rabbi" hangs out by the street corner: there's acute boppish theme, and a very wicked bass line. Dennis is sweet like an alto … plus a few surprising screams. He's plaintive on Ellington's "Fleurette Africaine", strolling through a maze of percussion. McClellan is at his best, and Wallmann shows a sweet sophistication. "Time After Time" is a great little ballad (Dennis coasts; Johannes sparkles) and the past comes to life on "Set Me As…". Bowed bass, an intro direct from "A Love Supreme", and grandiose drums - all shouting with joyful regret. Warm but sad, you'll remember it fondly, with the rest of the album. Inside you'll find discipline, history, and a whole lot of heart. -

"This Sound Shouldn't Be Missed"

June 14, 1997, by Chuck Berg

Tenor saxophonist Dennis Mitcheltree, who headlines today's Coleman Hawkins Neighborhood Jazz Festival, made a stirring Sunflower State debut on Thursday night at Lawrence's Jazzhaus.
On tour this summer in support of an impressive new CD called "Brooklyn," the 32-year-old New York-based tenorman - who's worked with such Big Apple mainstays as Jim McNeely, Odean Pope, Charli Persip, Bob Moses and Ronnie Mathews - is well into the process of launching his own name into the contemporary jazz firmament.
From the onset of the show, the first few bars of the venerable standard "Dear Old Stockholm," the influence of modern jazz giant John Coltrane was clear. Among the immediate clues were Mitcheltree's deep dark sound and virtuosic sheets-of-sound cascades.
Still, Mitcheltree is his own man. Indeed, his reading of "Stockholm" was downright lyrical. So along with his compressed multi-noted bursts, there were episodes where the notes not played were as significant as those actually intoned.
Mitcheltree is also a provocative composer. His mid-tempo "Trial by Delusion," for instance, used tension-coiling harmonic springs that triggered bracing forays by the leader as well as by pianist Johannes Wallman. Indeed, Wallman's adroit bundling of such diverse influences as the lyrical Bill Evans and quixotic Thelonious Monk provided a galvanizing foil for Mitcheltree's own adventurous peregrinations.
For Midwestern audiences too accustomed to the mating of an itinerant "star" with a local rhythm section, it was a pleasure to hear an actual working group, a quartet of sympatico players perfectly attuned to the nuances of each other's inner souls.
In rounding out the quartet, bassist Jesse Crawford played with a Gibralter-esque strength reminiscent of Jimmy Garrison, while drummer Bill McClellan flailed with a disciplined flamboyance suggesting the irrepressible power-flows of Elvin Jones and Al Foster.
The group's collective muscle flexed with Herculean brio on Mitcheltree's churning "Transformation," a burning, up-tempo romp that singed and soared. While Wallman pulverized the keys with a furioso attack a la McCoy Tyner, and Mitcheltree reeled off arpeggiated flurries worthy of Joe Henderson, McClellan whipped the pulse with a flood of stormy rhythmic waves. Standing fast at the bridge was an unflappable Crawford, who centered the voyage with a steadying hand at the temporal helm.
In contrast was Mitcheltree's poignant reading of Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time," first heard on Broadway in 1944 as part of the score for "On the Town." Evoking the lyric legacy of Coltrane's landmark "Ballads" album, Mitcheltree "sang" with an unsentimental yet moving heart-on-sleeve intensity. McClellans tastefully deployed mallets provided a balmy tropic breeze reminiscent of Ahmad Jamal's lean yet sultry take on "Poinciana."
Though playing to a sparse yet tuned-in audience, Mitcheltree's performance was a triumph and an enticing preview of things to come this afternoon in Topeka when the no-nonsense tenorman and his hand-in-glove quartet take the stage at 4:15 p.m. for "Hawkfest '97," at S.W. 8th and Tyler.
Mitcheltree's Quartet will also play a post-festival performance from 9 p.m. at Bonzo's Pub, 5630 S.W. 29th. - Topeka Capital-Journal

"Riding the Trane - Sax player Dennis Mitcheltree keeps alive the spirit of Coltrane and Davis"

June 5, 1997, by Jared Donze

Fans of the late saxophonist John Coltrane will want to head down to the Sanctuary to check out New York-based tenor player Dennis Mitcheltree and his quartet. Mitcheltree, a Wisconsin native, melds a full, sweet tone and compositional sense reminiscent of '60s Trane with an understanding of melodiscm in the vein of Branford Marsalis to produce a jazz stew that is at once both tuneful and gripping.
Raised in Milwaukee, Mitcheltree caught the jazz bug at an early age. "The first jazz recording I owned was Mile Davis' Kind of Blue," Mitcheltree said in a recent interview. "I'll never forget the chills that traveled down my spine the first time I heard Coltrane play on that album. Like most teenagers, I was looking for something in life that made sense to me and I had this wonderful connection with Trane's sound and attitude."
Mitcheltree attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating magna cum laude with a major in performance in 1987. His tenure at Berklee was interrupted by a three-month stint in Japan, where he had the opportunity to perform with bassist Chin Suzuki and saxophonist Tosh Inoue, two of Japan's most respected jazzers. Of his stint in the land of the rising sun, Mitcheltree said, "I had more fun in the three months that I was in Japan than I ever had up to that point in my life. I got a chance to do some wild, crazy things and meet and play with some really great musicians."
After graduating from Berklee, Mitcheltree moved to New York, where he has played at several jazz festivals including the Celebrate Brooklyn Festival and the Hot Prospects Concert Series. In 1995 his "Suite No. 1" for jazz sextet and string quartet was presented at Carnegie Hall, and, as the artistic director of the New York-based collective American Music Group, he has helped stage the highly regarded Inspirations (sic) concert series. He also performs one weekend a month with a trio at NYC's Cupping Room and hosts a weekly jam session at the Cornelia Street Cafe. And, as if his schedule weren't full enough, he finds time to teach at both the Greenwich House Music School and the Learning Place School of Music, and he teaches privately himself. He also manages, as time permits, to do jazz workshops at places like the Henry Street Settlement and the East Harlem Music School in New York.
Backed by an acoustic quartet of accomplished musicians on his most recent CD, Brooklyn, Mitcheltree moves through a set of originals that, although they won't make anyone forget Miles' "Giant Steps,"(sic) are competent and allow his horn plenty of room to move. This virtue is reinforced by the nimbleness of his rhythm section, anchored by drummer Bill McClellan, who displays a virtuosity on his cymbals most percussionists would do well to emulate. Opening with the appropriately named "The Dorian Menace," a workout by the entire quartet on the Dorian mode, it quickly becomes apparent just how tight the group is. Other highlights include the Monk-approved "Felonious" and the set-closer "Suite No. 1, Section IV," reprising the last movement of his Carnegie Hall performance. It is worth noting that many of the tunes that comprise Brooklyn were originally part of the jazz/strings "Suite No.1"; one wonders how much has been lost in the transformation from 10 pieces to four.
No, it is not the tunes on Brooklyn that make it a landmark statement by a vital, important young artist, but the melodies contained within. Mitcheltree has a knack for getting inside a melody - turning it, twisting it, all the while giving the listener the skinny, sharing a joke, nudging us in the ribs. He is a master storyteller with the tenor sax, taking advantage of a style that is conversational and intimate. And, even if his playing never progressed beyond the cliched - which it most certainly does - he would be worth listing to simply for that warm, fat tone.
In short, Mitcheltree does nothing revolutionary. He isn't a pivotal figure like Gillespie, Parker, Miles or Coltrane. None of his compositions are, or are likely to become, standards. Byt he is a player of consummate skill and taste, a master of his instrument. Where John Coltrane was a seething volcano, always about to explode, Mitcheltree is the calm clear water below a waterfall. Unlike popular music, where the emphasis is upon the song (and often the songwriter), and where often no expense is spared to multitrack and overdub in an attempt to craft flawless product, in jazz the performance is still what counts - both on record and on stage. Can the players come up with the goods - that has always been, and always will be, the question in jazz. Mitcheltree and his combo have the goods.
" As for the future, I'd like to continue performing and composing, developing the musical base that I've established," said Mitcheltree. "My main goal is to present whatever I'm playing, whether it's standards or original compositions, with the level of intensity and spirituali - Iowa City Icon

"Dennis Mitcheltree, Transformation, Altenburgh Jazz 70025 (58:01)"

February 1999, by Nancy Ann Lee

Influenced by his teachers, Joe Lovano, Billy Pierce, and Ralph Lalama, tenor saxophonist Dennis Mitcheltree's debut disc for this Wisconsin-based label demonstrates an idea-rich, tuneful, and communicative style that has been winning critical accolades for his quartet performances in New York and concerts of original works presented by the jazz composers amalgam, American Music Group. On this robust mixture of six originals and three standards, Mitcheltree shows himself to be a confident, virtuosic player. Fronting two quartets recorded in 1996 and 1997, the saxophonist is aggressively adventurous and most expressive on five tracks with pianist Johannes Wallmann, bassist Jesse Crawford, and drummer Bill McClellan. Standout tracks with this team include Mitcheltree's ballad "Time Waits,"(sic) the cadent "Gumbo," and the power-packed "Perspective." Four moderated forays with Brian Sharron (piano), Jeff Hamann (bass), and Andy Algire (drums) are pleasant but Mitcheltree's playing is less fiery. With both groups, Mitcheltree evokes hearty tones from his instrument as he masterfully interweaves unexpected lines to create fascinating sound tapestries at any tempo. - Jazz Times

"MITCHELTREE BRINGS NEW VITALITY TO JAZZ, Reed player proves his worth at Estate show"

June 3, 1998, by Mike Drew

There's a growing Milwaukee chapter in New York jazz circles, including Lynne Arriale, who returns home Friday and Saturday for gigs at the Red Mill East.
On Monday, a lesser-known alumnus locally, reed player Dennis Mitcheltree, blew into his old hometown with a smoothly meshing quartet for a one nighter at the Estate.
If you like your jazz virile, vital and post-bop, remember his name.
The tenor saxophonist left Milwaukee at age 8 for Shawano and Green Bay. He turned down a scholarship to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music to study at Boston's jazz mecca, the Berklee College of Music. Influenced by seminal modern tenor players, he started by absorbing John Coltrane and continued studying with reigning giant Joe Lovano.
But Mitcheltree, 33, owns the chops and confidence to be his own man; most of his program Monday was original material. He and blazing young pianist, Johannes Wallmann, 23, recast the set's only standard, "Caravan," by playing the melody an octave and a half-note apart. As experimental as he was harmonically, "Caravan" co-composer Duke Ellington never tried it that way. It shouldn't work, but it did.
So did the persistent tempo changes within tunes, under the inspired driving of drummer Bill McClellan and bassist Jesse Crawford. Both bumped their heads on the Estate's low-slung ceiling, the evening's only misdirection.
Wallmann, who left his native Germany for a Berklee scholarship at 17 and never looked back, was a revelation, alternating blazing chording and lightning runs within solos.
Usually he and Mitcheltree had far more on their minds than exhibitionism. But with so much original material, listeners must guess where the writing leaves off and the improvising begins.
Mostly, the group favored medium-fast tempos, as when opening and closing Mitcheltree's inventive "Suite No. 1, Section IV." In the central portion and the balladic "Missing," the quartet showed a romantic side, Crawford's burnished bowing and McClellan's brushes underpinning the Mitcheltree/Wallmann introspection.
To the names of Milwaukee's rising national jazz stars - including David Hazeltine, Brian Lynch, Carl Allen and Arriale - add Dennis Mitcheltree. - MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINAL

"Dennis Mitcheltree, In The Mainstream"

July 1998, by Chris J. Walker

In the tradition of saxophone legends Sonny Stitt, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane emerges Brooklyn-based Dennis Mitcheltree. His sound and technique embody all the previously mentioned masters without being mimicry. Themes, traditions of bebop, and hard bop are firmly rooted in his many original compositions. Although Mitcheltree has deep respect and reverence for the great mainstream jazz classics of the past, the saxophonist is driven to refine and expand his own sound.
Transformation, on the Altenburgh Records, label, is his latest effort. Similar to his previously released Brooklyn, it is intense and highly energetic. The most obvious difference between the two CDs is that Mitcheltree and his group (Jesse Crawford-bass, Billy McClellan-drums, and Andy Milne-piano) have included in this effort several non-original numbers. They are Caravan popularized by Duke Ellington, Bud Powell's Time Waits, and Leonard Bernstein's Some Other Time.
" I love to play standards," Mitcheltree says. "And there are some gigs where I play almost all standards. The main focus is the music that I want to play - and the music I compose would be it." Mitcheltree's music is best described as pure, unadulterated, mainstream jazz. He explains, "I don't think of anything in any other vein because I don't want to deal with the electronic instruments."
" I've worked hard for so many years developing my sound. I don't like it when I have to play with a microphone and the cat at the board is saying, 'if you want to be heard, you're going to have to scream your butt off.' I don't dig that because it's not my sound. Any time we don't have to use a bass amp, it's beautiful."
Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where jazz barely exists, Mitcheltree found the Northeast, specifically the Boston and New York area, more conducive to his growth as a musician. "I split to the East Coast pretty much out of high school," he recalls. "I graduated a semester early and practiced for ten hours a day. I sat in with as many people as I could. I got a scholarship to go to the Wisconsin Conservatory in Milwaukee but I decided against it because I wanted to get to the East Coast."
Once there, the blossoming saxophonist found himself enrolled at Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music. "It was actually a great school," Mitcheltree reminisces. "The best thing I got out of it coming from Wisconsin was the fact that there were musicians there all the time. You could play and listen constantly, which wasn't necessarily the case where I was from." He played and listened profoundly enough to excel, graduating magna cum laude.
Now with two solid CDs under his belt, the Brooklyn saxophonist plans only to keep playing, teaching, and writing his special jazz music. He explains, "the writing is the springboard for the improvisation. If I don't have that, I'm not really presenting myself or my music." But, Mitcheltree insists, "all people really need to know is that my music comes from the heart. It's honest and it's real. And that's something that's actually not too common these days." - Strictly Jazz


Samples can be found at:

as a leader:
Dennis Mitchel3 - Tenor of the Times
( DVD041028) 2006

Dennis Mitcheltree - Union
( DCD990608) 2004

Mitcheltree/Wallmann Duo - Cityscapes
(MooseWorks MWP1003) 2001

Dennis Mitcheltree - Transformation
(Altenburgh70025) 1998

Dennis Mitcheltree - Brooklyn
(Dengor Music DCD1013)1996

as a sideman:
Donna Accorso Easy To Love (Saucey Records 91402) 2005
Mark Peterson The Blue Room (Meppco Music) 1999
Karen Novy Living True (Cardinal Records CRD51388) 1997



Described as a “master storyteller with the tenor sax” (Jared Donze, Iowa City Icon) and as “soulful, swinging, and street smart” (Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide), Milwaukee native Dennis Mitcheltree, tenor saxophone, has spent the last couple of decades shaping the sound of New York City’s Brooklyn jazz scene: "Mitcheltree's quartet is definitely hard‐core NYC: tough sounding, aggressive, and complex.” (Dave McElfresh, Jazz Now)

A former student of Joe Lovano, Billy Pierce, George Garzone and Ralph Lalama, Mitcheltree works primarily with his own trio and quartet, with whom he has recorded four CDs of original compositions. He has performed in clubs, concert halls and at jazz festivals throughout North America and Europe, including numerous performances at Carnegie Hall, and has been featured on televised jazz specials and live radio performance and interview programs worldwide. Some of Mitcheltree’s collaborations have included jazz greats Bob Moses, Jim McNeely, Howard Johnson, Gary Bartz, George Cables, Odean Pope, Kenny Werner, Ingrid Jensen, James Williams, Don Sickler, Charli Persip, Pete Yellin, Uri Caine and Ronnie Mathews.

Mitcheltree is the Artistic Director of the American Music Group, widely known for it’s INFLUENCES series presenting original arrangements of compositions by jazz masters including Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Thelonious Monk, Tadd Dameron, Bud Powell, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. He has been a panelist for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Jazz Fellowship program and the Brooklyn Arts Council Regrant Program. He has twice been a recipient of the Eubie Blake Award, a 2004 & 2008 Meet The Composer award winner (for Tenor Of The Times), a New York State Council on the Arts grant recipient and the alternate finalist for the 1996 Evansville International Jazz Saxophone Competition.