The remarkable flutist, composer, and bandleader Nicole Mitchell has a new group, Ice Crystals, a group comprised of vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Joshua Abrams and drummer Frank Rosaly. With an instrumentation similar to Eric Dolphy’s collaborations with Bobby Hutcherson, comparisons are inevitable but Mitchell has over the past two decades established herself as one of the most significant jazz voices on flute, becoming a critics favorite. On her new Delmark recording with Ice Crystals, Aquarius, she displays a variety of aspects of her music (although not her long-suite compositions) which the author of the liner notes Lofton A Eminari III describe as ‘free swing.”
The marvelous opening number Aqua Blue, opens and Mitchell relates it bears some resemblance to Herbie Hancock’s Eye of the Hurricane, as well as displaying the interplay of her with Adasiewicz (and evoking Dolphy with Hutchinson), as well as allowing both to solo, while Abrams and Rosaly swing the performance along. A different mood is fostered by Today, Today, which opens with vibes before Mitchell’s flute states and develops the theme. Mitchell’s fluidity and tone (including where she hums along with her playing) contrasts with Adasiewicz’s shimmering vibe through changes in tempo and mood.
“Aquarius” is Mitchell’s birth sign which she notes expresses her “attraction to changing colors, fluidity and surprise,” reflected in changes in mood and tempo from Abrams sober arco solo to Mitchell’s flute floating before the four heat up with Rosaly taking a solo. The remainder of the performances further display changing musical colors, the group’s fluidity along with elements of surprise as Ice Crystal conveys varied moods from reflectiveness to playfulness, and goes from being from sober to flighty to celebratory as on the closing “Fred Anderson. This closing performance, with Calvin Grant’s narration, celebrates the late giant of Chicago jazz who was a mentor to Mitchell and others.
Aquarius is another excellent recording by Nicole Mitchell, showcasing her compositions, exquisite flute playing and splendid group, Ice Crystals.
I received my review copy from Delmark. Among upcoming performances by Nicole Mitchell include an appearance at the Kennedy Center's Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Festival where she opens the final night of the Festival, Saturday May 18 on a bill with the winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, Cécile McLorin Salvant and Cindy Blackman Santana. It is the final night of three extraordinary evenings of Jazz. For more details visit http://www.kennedy-center.org/events/?event=MNWIL.