Roscoe Mitchell is an iconoclast woodwind improviser-composer who creates melodies that have a cruel bite–but increasingly in recent years, he’s also been the sweetest of lyric artists, a singer of gentle, innocent songs. He breaks music down to its most basic elements–a mere fragment of melody, a rhythm, a sound (perhaps no more than air breathing through a horn)–and develops them into self-contained, often complex structures. He plays solos low down in the biggest, deepest contrabass instruments or way up in the highest of treble horns, at the limits of the human ear’s capacity. He’s the most intense of saxophonists, with his many-noted screaming violence all the more terrifying for his sometime satiric thrusts. Roscoe Mitchell is all of these things, from one composition to another in the same concert. His influence on the development of jazz during the last quarter-century has been widespread, beginning in his early days in Chicago–he’s a founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago–and continuing through his adventures as an unaccompanied soloist and with big and small bands, jazz-classical fusions, and jazz-rock units. For this rather rare return to his native city he’ll be joined by a pianist, two bassists, and three drummers, a typically unpredictable ensemble for one of the most distinctively imaginative individuals who has ever created jazz. Tonight, 8:30 PM, Hothouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lauren Deutsch.