Roscoe Mitchell and Mike Reed Credit: Geert Vandepoele

I’m a live-music addict, and it sometimes feels completely unreal that I haven’t been to a concert in almost a year. But one of the pandemic’s few silver linings is that some musicians are digging into their archives and issuing old live material that might otherwise have stayed on the shelf. Such is the case with reedist and composer Roscoe Mitchell and drummer Mike Reed. They’ve both contributed hugely to Chicago’s jazz scene, though Mitchell hasn’t lived here in many years (he’s now based in Fitchburg, Wisconsin), and I’ve seen both of them play many times. I’ve also seen lots of shows at the Hungry Brain and at Constellation, both of which Reed owns. But there was no way I could’ve caught their collaborative set on October 22, 2015, as part of the Oorstof concert series in Antwerp, Belgium. The fine Astral Spirits label has released that performance as The Ritual and the Dance, digitally and in a pressing of 500 LPs, and the album treats us to some live alchemy that might never have reached our ears if not for our current circumstances. Mitchell, a deeply thoughtful sonic prankster who’s best known as a cofounder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, mostly takes the lead in this continuous instant composition. His sax flutters, drones, and skronks in its own uniquely unyielding way while Reed’s drum textures tag in and out of the ring. And when Mitchell backs off into his distinctive elongated, pitch-shifting tones, Reed takes the opportunity to shine. Sometimes they both take the foreground at once in a fantastic convergence, building sparse minimalism into crescendos of fierce free jazz or the hardest bop you never heard. The concert ends with Reed maintaining a meditative drum pattern while Mitchell chimes delicately—and then the crowd goes wild. The high quality of the production lets you convince yourself that you’re hearing the peaks and valleys of this mind-bending, soul-stirring concert in the flesh. I still miss feeling the physical vibrations pumping out of a PA and seeing sweat pouring off musicians’ faces, but I’ll take what I can get right now—especially if it comes in a gatefold sleeve with art by Roscoe Mitchell himself!   v