In the past few years Nicole Mitchell has emerged as a major voice in contemporary music. The poll winning flautist (in 2010 won Downbeat’s Critics Poll as both Rising Star and top instrumentalist in the flute category) has performed in a number of contexts and has established herself as an educator, composer, instrumentalist and band leader. Her new Delmark album, The Awakening, which she notes that decided to put her flute more in the forefront. She has worked previously with each of her collaborators here, bassist Harrison Bankhead, guitarist Jeff Parker, and drummer Avreeayl Ra. However this group played the first time together a few days prior to entering the studio for this recording.
Curly Top, the ebullient opening number is written for her daughter and in addition to her flighty solo, Parker especially turns in some bright playing. The suite-like Journey On a Thread, has a bit more free and abstract tenor with Parker’s opening which is followed by Mitchell painting sounds with her flute. Bankhead’s funky ostinato bass pattern provides the anchor for the mesmerizing Center of the Earth and the strong improvisations by Mitchell and Parker (who himself repeats a riff during Mitchell’s solo with her overblowing and use of overtones). Parker also plays with sounds during his interlude here.
Snowflakes is a lovely and brief, delicately played piece followed by Momentum, which has an appealing peppy theme and an engaging, vibrant performance. Parker’s guitar helps instill an indigo mood for the evocative More Than I Can Say. Parker contributed one composition, F.O.C. which features a stunning improvisation by Mitchell who displays such a pure tone, followed by the deliberate and thoughtful guitar of Parker. The title composition was inspired by Mitchell’s association with Steve Coleman and closes this recording on a high level.
The Awakening impresses with the outstanding playing and strong ensemble playing on challenging compositions. This recording is consistently superb. This writer would love to see this band live.
My review copy was provided by Delmark