Roscoe Mitchell (born August 3, 1940) is an American composer, jazz instrumentalist, and educator, known for being “a technically superb – if idiosyncratic – saxophonist”. The Penguin Guide to Jazz described him as “one of the key figures” in avant-garde jazz; All About Jazz states that he has been “at the forefront of modern music” for the past 35 years. Critic Jon Pareles in The New York Times has mentioned that Mitchell “qualifies as an iconoclast”. In addition to his own work as a bandleader, Mitchell is known for cofounding the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).
Mitchell was born in Chicago, Illinois. He also grew up in the Chicago area, where he played saxophone and clarinet at around age twelve. His family was always involved in music with many different styles playing in the house when he was a child as well as having a secular music background. His brother, Norman, in particular was the one who introduced Mitchell to jazz. While attending Englewood High School in Chicago, he furthered his study of the clarinet.