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Jazz - Released August 20, 2018 | FPE Records

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Recorded live at Brooklyn's National Sawdust as part of John Zorn's Stone Commissioning Series, Maroon Cloud is an eight-part chamber suite that develops and expands on the visionary concepts Nicole Mitchell explored on 2008's Xenogenesis Suite and 2017's Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds. It integrates core philosophical, psychological, and musical tenets as gateways to introduce new elemental concepts sonically, lyrically, and compositionally. Her trio of trusted collaborators includes cellist Tomeka Reid, Cuban pianist Aruan Ortiz, and vocalist Fay Victor. Mitchell's flutes assume a dual role: as a second human voice that reacts to and underscores the character and lyrical content in Victor's singing, and as a bridge of translation for the other players. Mitchell reacts to, predicts, and illustrates the expressions of her collaborators via composition and canny improvisation. This recording attempts to illustrate that "...Imagination is our greatest human resource and lately we seem to be running low. Yet, imagination is how we co-create our future...." Mitchell's compositions provide musical settings that rely on an uninterrupted flow of space in order to communicate. She allows each musical expression and nuance the freedom to explore. Opener "Warm Dark Realness" commences with Reid's cello and Ortiz's piano engaging in scalar interplay before Mitchell's flute bridges their two poles. Victor's vocal emerges from the center; it inhabits words as shades of meaning to be stretched and reflected on, as the other players react to their own interpretations of them. The effect is otherworldly. That result is echoed and heightened by "Otherness," "Endurance," and "Hidden Choice" -- all seem to emerge from the ether to create light bodies via strategized composed frameworks that reveal directions for individual improvised ideas. In "Vodou Spacetime Kettle," an homage to Bessie Smith, Mitchell and her companions utilize blues to reveal the ground of this space-time continuum. Victor is at her most soulfully expressive, quoting from Smith's songs in a gospel- and barrelhouse-inflected improv interplay with Mitchell's gritty flute, Reid's plucked, bass-like cello, and Ortiz's angular chord voicings. Post-bop, blues, and groove undergird "Nothing Can Stop Us" as Reid and Mitchell vamp on a jazz-blues motif in the extended intro before getting downright funky introducing Victor, who moans the title phrase like a mantra. Ortiz adds arpeggios and fat mid- and lower-register chords. This is an outward (as in communicable) expression of internalized preconceptions and emotions as they engage possibility for the purpose of transformation. That punchy flute introduces the driving Nina Simone-esque romp in "A Sound" as Victor digs into the entire maelstrom of musical motion: Ortiz plays a mutant blues modalism on the keys, and Reid pulses through the changes with rhythmic authority. Closer "Constellation Symphony" seamlessly marries musical ideas from the preceding music with intense, urgent soloing from all three instrumentalists before a spoken word interlude takes it out. On Maroon Cloud, Mitchell points to new horizons for Afro-futurism and human psychology. Hers is an integral sonic conceptualization that communicates even as it illustrates limitless potential for the mind and heart to re-create the world. ~ Thom Jurek

Jazz - Released August 20, 2018 | FPE Records

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Jazz - Released June 17, 2011 | Delmark

When jazz critic Peter Margasak interviewed Nicole Mitchell for the liner notes he wrote for Awakening, she explained: "I wanted to dig back into the old-school jazz a bit and yet still make room to branch out into never-never land." And that is a perfect description of what the Chicago-based flutist/composer does on this 2011 date, which finds her leading a pianoless quartet that employs Jeff Parker on electric guitar, Harris Bankhead on upright bass and Avreeayl Ra on drums and percussion. Presumably, the "old-school jazz" that Mitchell is referring to is post-bop, while "the never-never land" is avant-garde jazz. Of course, avant-garde jazz comes in many different flavors. Avant-garde jazz can be totally outside (whether it is scorching, dense, brutally atonal free jazz or the spaciness of the AACM), or it can be avant-garde jazz with an inside/outside perspective--and Awakening, like previous Mitchell releases, has an inside/outside perspective. The material that Mitchell composed for Awakening is fairly melodic; "There," "Momentum" and the bluesy "F.O.C.," for example, offer appealing post-bop melodies. "Curly Top" even has a somewhat Horace Silver-ish funkiness. So no, this 64-minute CD is not an exercise in atonality; that isn't the scenario at all. But at the same time, Mitchell and her colleagues don't hesitate to venture into outside playing when they feel like it. They don't venture far outside, but they do venture outside--and while Awakening is more inside than outside, the outside element is an attractive part of the equation. Mitchell, it should be noted, has favored different combinations of musicians on different albums; she is quite proficient when it comes to ensemble playing and arranging, but an intimate quartet format serves her equally well on Awakening. And once again, the Chicago resident excels as both a composer and a soloist. ~ Alex Henderson
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Jazz - Released October 14, 2016 | Clean Feed

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Jazz - Released March 26, 2015 | Delmark

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House - Released October 9, 2012 | Open Bar Music

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House - Released November 5, 2013 | Afro Rebel Music

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Free Jazz & Avant-Garde - Released April 16, 2013 | Delmark

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House - Released August 14, 2012 | Open Bar Music

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House - Released August 28, 2012 | Open Bar Music