A truly brilliant début album by this former member of the award-winning bands Quite Sane and J-Life. VOYAGER is a rare beast among débuts: a set of pieces in which composition and improvisation sit in perfect harmony; a musical statement through which Mitchell fully defines himself as a soloist, incorporating the melodic and harmonic gifts received from a classical training and from his travels in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. Fitting for an album of this title, Roberts sextet Panacea is an amazing multinational, multicultural group of musicians whose origins reach across the globe to the shores of the UK. VOYAGER brings together the many different voices that have resounded through Mitchells personal artistic journey from M-base tinged grooves to classically infected balladry. There are so many qualities that define Mitchells style: orchestral, rhythmically restless, harmonically expensive, lyrically unashamed. But, when all is said and done, his music and lyrics are so original, his playing so inspired, that only one word truly defines Robert Mitchell: UNIQUE.
Panacea are Robert Mitchell (piano, keyboards), Eska Mtungwazi (voice), Barak Schmool (saxophones), Nico Gomez (electric bass), Volker Strater (percussion) and Richard Spaven (drums), and Voyager
is their impressive debut album. Special guests Steve Williamson, Omar Puente and Roberto Bellatalla bring an extra and welcome flavour to several tracks but even without them the album would compel attention. Apart from Alec Wilder's "I'll Be Around" and Keith Jarrett's "Days and Nights Waiting" all the material is by Mitchell, including some philosophically inclined lyrics interpreted with no little dramatic focus and style by female vocalist Mtungwazi. Piano, bass, drums and percussion form the impressive core of the group and combine to form some deliciously off-centre, urgent phrasing with a clipped but flowing feel. Schmool contributes a variety of economic, well-turned comments to Mitchell's earnest lyrics, the whole adding up to a stimulating, post-Weather Report, modern mainstream session of genuine quality. --Michael Tucker