Dennis Mitcheltree: A long-lost Milwaukee jazz saxophonist returns home with a “Golden” new album

ALBUM REVIEW: Dennis Mitcheltree – Golden Rule (Dengor)

Add Los Angleian Dennis Mitcheltree to an impressive list of intelligently creative Wisconsin jazz musicians with strong roots, or still residing here. His prime collaborator of 25 years, Madison-based piano virtuoso Johannes Wallmann, dazzles throughout with power, deftness, and artful ingenuity. Mitcheltree’s sixth album Golden Rule, is titled not for Jesus Christ’s famous dictum, but philosopher Immanuel Kant’s version, extolling equitable human relations, which he called “the categorical imperative.”

 That’s not to suggest the saxophonist-composer’s music is didactic or stern, only to underscore depth of thought behind it. As his quartet recently demonstrated at Riverwest’s Bar Centro, his music delights and amuses while keeping the mind fueled and geared up.

Saxophonist Dennis Mitcheltree recently led a quartet in a live date at Bar Centro, not unlike this live date from Europe. Photo Courtesy Jazz in Europe

On “Genghis Kant” Mitcheltree’s hard swing heartily honors the great philosopher’s fearless blend of empiricism and transcendentalism. The musician’s penchant for heady wordplay translates into a musical wit by turns pithy and intricate. Try on “Pacifisticuffs,” for example. “Bling Tone,” is a ring-a-ding echo of an early Miles Davis trademark, “If I Were a Bell,” (slyly implied in the title). “Gingerfoot” is a sharp, snappy theme with slightly Monkish angularity.

Mitcheltree’s tenor sax tone is warm, rounded and Sonny Rollins-like, but adorning a slightly trickier mind.

We need music like this, as diverting philosophical salve in dire times.


This review was originally published in The Shepherd Express, here: 

Golden Rule by Dennis Mitcheltree – Shepherd Express