The Squid's Ear Magazine

Mines, Kelsey: Look Like (Relative Pitch)

The first complete solo release from Seattle, Washington bassist and vocalist Kelsey Mines, active in both classical music as a member of Yakima Symphony, Symphony Tacoma and the Paramount Orchestra, and as an improviser, here presenting a series of improvised solo-duets that explore how listening to our on-going internal dialogue helps us conjure honest, outward expressions.

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Kelsey Mines-bass, voice

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UPC: 5904224871154

Label: Relative Pitch
Catalog ID: RPR1158
Squidco Product Code: 32589

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at The Plot, in Shoreline, Washington, in November, 2021.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"The world of non-idiomatic improvisation/free improvisation/creative music/free jazz (choose the label that least offends your sensibilities) eschews tradition as encapsulated in a genre but, like jazz, embraces the tradition of innovation and evolutionary growth. The birth of modern "creative music" (we had to pick a term) can be traced to the late 1950's (e.g. Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor). It flourished in the 1960's in America (for example, Roscoe Mitchell and the many stalwarts of the AACM), in Europe (e.g. Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Peter Brötzmann, Joëlle Léandre and many like-minded collaborators) and in Japan (e.g. Motoharu Yoshizawa and Masayuki Takayanagi). In the past two decades, many members of this generation of musicians have died, while other age gracefully and continue to perform. Still, this music is a living organism and a distinct pleasure in following its meandering path is the discovery of each successive generation of musicians who push it forward, sculpt their own unique interpretation, define what creative music means in the present, and thus influence its future.

The staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about this evolution while we listen to music. We have a few relatively useless observations on general characteristics of this development, which we will either save for a later date or take to our graves. Here, in this review, we remark only on how Look Like, a solo performance featuring Kelsey Mines on bass and vocals, prompted the neurons in our brain to fire again in different ways while listening to the album and contemplating its message.

From the biography on her website, we learn that Ms. Mines has received an academic training in the contrabass. Her performance reveals not only a technical mastery of the instrument that she has made her lifelong companion but also a tender intimacy. The liner notes state "all music written by Kelsey Mines", so we presume that the music we hear falls somewhere to the composed side of the broad spectrum from pure improvisation to pure composition. At the same time, we feel the spontaneity of improvisation. The six tracks defy any easy recognition of conventional song structure, at least to our (admittedly limited) pattern recognition skills. The instrument itself is played in a manner that invites listeners with the promise of a familiar melody that never quite fully materializes in favor of the unpredictable turn of phrase. In no sense is the contrabass attempting to prompt a readjustment in the perception of the listener through brute, jarring sound. The request to actively listen is cordial and warm.

For the most part, Ms. Mines' voice follows the lead of instrument, both in tone and tempo. At the same time, the vocalizations liberate the bass and create the suggestion of an acoustic space in which the bass is freed from limitations of any particular idiom. There is a careful elegance here that strives to achieve a personal esthetic goal and superbly succeeds.

In the liner notes to Wadada Leo Smith's The Emerald Duets (TUM Records, 2022), the American pianist, Vijay Iyer writes, "It is wrong to compare musicians." This admonition is difficult for us to understand given Iyer's encouragement of creative, active listening and his PhD dissertation on embodied cognition in music. From our perspective, part of the natural processing of music is framing it in relation to other music. In any case, in the reviews of the Poison Pie Publishing House, we repeatedly run afoul of Iyer's rule and we will do so again in this review. This solo album by Kelsey Mines reminded us first of the kind of magic that Barre Phillips teases from his bass. In an explicit act of "passing the torch", the liner notes to Look Like contain some lovely words by none other than Joëlle Léandre, the grande dame of creative contrabass and voice! So, hearing a cultural and musical connection between Kelsey Mines and Joëlle Léandre is not just a result of one of our bad habits but is explicitly encouraged by Ms. Léandre. Without any suggestion of being derivative, we hear the knowledge and respect for the evolving tradition of the contrabass in the play of Kelsey Mines. We look forward to hearing her in dialogue with like-minded collaborators."-The Poison Pie Publishing House

Get additional information at Poison Pie Publishing House

Artist Biographies

"In the fall of 2016, Kelsey was a recipient of the Holland Scholarship, granting her the opportunity to study contrabass with Sorin Orcinschi at the Prince Claus Conservatoire in Groningen, The Netherlands. Currently, Kelsey resides in Seattle, Washington, performing and teaching throughout the Greater Seattle Area, while touring nationally and internationally with groups including ings, NYGASP, and the Hollywood Concert Orchestra. Kelsey currently works for the Yakima Symphony, Symphony Tacoma and the Paramount Orchestra, while freelancing in numerous settings reaching from chamber music to Latin jazz. She released her debut album in 2018 February of entirely original music and currently co-leads the bands EarthToneSkyTone and Here to Play. She can be found teaching at Bellevue College, Seattle JazzED, Lakeside School and elsewhere. Kelsey also runs a private studio for students of all ages, teaching electric and upright bass, music theory, and more. Kelsey was the recipient of Earshot Jazz's Emerging Artist Award in 2019 and continually creates inspired work as a solo artist and collaborator. You can support her work directly on Patreon.

In May of 2016, Kelsey completed her Master's Degree in Double Bass Performance at Arizona State University under the direction of professor Catalin Rotaru. At ASU, Kelsey's musical involvement included the ASU Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera Theatre, the ASU jazz combos, the ASU Latin Ensemble, and the Visiting Quartet Residency Program. Beyond her degree, Kelsey freelanced in and around the Phoenix area, performing in settings that range from jazz, to classical chamber music, to musical theatre. She also taught group and private lessons to the students of Arcadia High School in Phoenix.

Kelsey received her Bachelor of Music Degree at the University of Washington in Seattle under professor Barry Lieberman in 2014."

-Kelsey Mines Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

Track Listing:

1. Only Nobody 3:30

2. Loyal 8:24

3. Go Go Go 8:50

4. Sixth Sense 10:22

5. Look Like 9:11

6. Temple 9:59

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Stringed Instruments
Unusual Vocal Forms
Solo Artist Recordings
West Coast/Pacific US Jazz
New in Improvised Music
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