Saturday, June 11, 2011

Nicole Mitchell - Awakening (Delmark Records, 2011)

Renowned Chicago flautist and composer Nicole Mitchell has embarked on some very ambitious projects in the past, but this quartet recording pares back her group to a small set of colleagues, Jeff Parker on guitar, Harrison Bankhead on bass and Avreeayl Ra on drums. It’s a group of some of Chicago’s most talented improvisers, and the music is adventurous and thoughtful throughout. Nicole Mitchell plays adventurous flute reminiscent of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, using throaty growls and swirling figures plus the wonderful guitar work from Jeff Parker, and a rock solid rhythm section keep things moving briskly forward."Momentum" is a centerpiece of the recording with swirling flute developing into a vortex of full band collective improvisation featuring great guitar and drums interacting before for Ra steps put on a fine solo of his own. The group shows their mastery of dynamism as they slow the tempo down for a ruminative flute solo and guitar interlude. "More Than I Can Say" plays off the haunting vibe with spiraling flute and shards of guitar over abstract percussion. The develop a long form improvisation here as well as on "Journey on a Thread" where an introductory duet of guitar and drums is split by a long slow spot anchored by a bass solo before returning to the earlier tempo. There is a sense of mystery and the unexpected that pervades this recording that makes it exciting listening. The sound of flute and subtle electric guitar is an enticing one and the rhythm section is locked in throughout. Awakening -

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