By Ivana Ng | Published January 2021
Flow States brings together avant-garde pioneers to deliver a compact yet unrelenting set of expansive improvisations. The record represents reedist Scott Robinson and drummer Milford Graves’ first endeavor together, and multi-instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell’s first collaboration with both Graves and reedist Marshall Allen. It’s clear from the start, though, that these four have been vibrating on the same wavelength for a long time.
Recorded at Robinson’s ScienSonic Laboratories, Flow States finds the quartet oscillating between forceful explorations and sparse, meditative musings, while seamlessly weaving in bebop, funk and more avant-garde concepts. On “Vortex State,” Mitchell’s blustery notes and Robinson’s acrobatic lines merge with Allen’s meandering reeds for a vibrant amelodic exchange. On “Dream State,” the reeds fall back, spotlighting Graves’ dynamic polyrhythms. The band’s collaboration throughout feels organic and well-balanced, with each musician afforded the proper space to explore fringe concepts.
Graves is a tenacious force, painting rich textures and spiritual rhythms with high-octane authority. His backbeat provides the anchor for Allen’s playful electric whirls and Robinson’s guttural reeds on “Transition State,” and his playing grows even more frantic under Mitchell’s sopranino lines on “Steady State.” Inspired by bebop melodies and funky rhythms, the quartet converges on a more accessible groove for the latter half of Flow States. By its conclusion, the band reaches a full-on flow state of boundless improvisation and unbridled creative energy.
Flow States: Vortex State; Dream State; Transition State; Steady State; Plasma State; Altered State; Variable State; Flow State. (68:24)
Personnel: Marshall Allen, alto saxophone, EVI; Roscoe Mitchell, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone, alto saxophone, bass saxophone; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone, contrabass saxophone, bass saxophone; Milford Graves, drums.