Nicole Mitchell explores the work of African-American writer Octavia Butler in a science fiction concept of intergalactic integration, achieved through 9 detailed pieces that balance improvisation, composition and song in unique and sophisticated ways.
Mitchell's, Nicole Black Earth
Label: For Practically
Released in: USA
"Among the many gateways to appreciating jazz, science fiction doesn't come to mind immediately. Yet the theme has been consistently documented on record, from Ornette Coleman's aptly titled album Science Fiction to Sun Ra's cosmic explorations. You name it.
On Intergalactic Beings (FPE Records), composer and avant-flutist Nicole Mitchell continues to explore the work of African-American writer Octavia Butler, here focusing on the perpetuation of humans through interaction with benevolent and life-saving aliens. In this futuristic scenario, humans are recovering from nuclear war and have been abducted by and forced to breed with extraterrestrials to survive as newly regenerated forms. Wait a minute, what's that got to do with music? Let's take a listen to find out.
Consisting of flute, tenor sax, bass clarinet, trumpet, sralai thom, violin, cello, electric guitar, bass, percussions, drums and vocals, the album offers a richly layered soundscape full of textured dynamics and phantasmagoric storytelling. From the stuttering motion of the opening "Phases of Subduction" to the closing "The Inevitable", the music unravels its mysteries in a complex spool of interweaving lines fraught with eerie darkness.
The track "The Ooli Moves" is a trance-like dance introduced by the unison line of bass and violin that gradually builds into a haunting maelstrom plodding along with burning urgency. After the first motif fades away, a fuzzed-out bell-like guitar interlude brings in the second motif and there's a sense a transformation has occurred. "Transformation is inevitable" warns vocalist Mankwe Ndosi and the well-chosen titles match the transient quality of the songs, each of which seems to evolve through various shape-shifting phases. On "Dripping matter", for example, a honking wail of guitar, violin and horns seem to drift in and out of the dripping rain soon pierced by Josh Abram's cavernous bass tumbling along in the oozing murk. The song segues into "Negotiating Identity", which has oenomatopeic vocals - the post-mating language? - a serrated freeform sax solo which blends into the initial wail returning to close out the song.
In this experimental setting, Mitchell's flute takes a back seat for much of the album except for a compelling solo on the closer "The Inevitable". Not taking anything away from the leader's instrumental chops, her art, at least on this album, has more to do with the organic unity the album achieves in its 9 multi-section songs, balancing improvisation and composition in a rigorously structured and challenging narrative.
In the liner notes, Mitchell explains: "by musically illustrating the process of fear, resilience and transformation with Intergalactic Beings I created sonic experiences to confront the listener." And confronted we are. These songs are full of raw energy, alternating exploratory ensemble playing with alluring thematic statements reflecting the composer's deep sense of form. "Resisting Entanglement" is a shining example of that. A little daunting in scope at first, the rewards of the album will amply reveal themselves after a few listens and a couple of trips in outer space."-Wellyouneedit.wordpress.comAlso available on vinyl LP.
• Show Bio for Nicole Mitchell
"Nicole Mitchell (b. 1967) is a creative flutist, composer, bandleader and educator. As the founder of Black Earth Ensemble, Black Earth Strings, Ice Crystal and Sonic Projections, Mitchell has been repeatedly awarded by DownBeat Critics Poll and the Jazz Journalists Association as "Top Flutist of the Year" for the last four years (2010-2014). Mitchell's music celebrates African American culture while reaching across genres and integrating new ideas with moments in the legacy of jazz, gospel, experimentalism, pop and African percussion through albums such as Black Unstoppable (Delmark, 2007), Awakening (Delmark, 2011), and Xenogenesis Suite: A Tribute to Octavia Butler (Firehouse 12, 2008), which received commissioning support from Chamber Music America's New Jazz Works.
Mitchell formerly served as the first woman president of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and has been a member since 1995. In recognition of her impact within the Chicago music and arts education communities, she was named "Chicagoan of the Year" in 2006 by the Chicago Tribune. With her ensembles, as a featured flutist and composer, Mitchell has been a highlight at festivals and art venues throughout Europe, the U.S. and Canada.
Ms. Mitchell is a recipient of the prestigious Alpert Award in the Arts (2011) and has been commissioned by Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, the Ravinia Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Chicago Sinfonietta Orchestra and Maggio Fiorentino Chamber Orchestra (Florence, Italy). In 2009, she created Honoring Grace: Michelle Obama for the Jazz Institute of Chicago. She has been a faculty member at the Vancouver Creative Music Institute, the Sherwood Flute Institute, Banff International Jazz Workshop and the University of Illinois, Chicago. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio, and in magazines including Ebony, Downbeat, JazzIz, Jazz Times, Jazz Wise, and American Legacy.
Nicole MItchell is currently a Professor of Music, teaching in "Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology," (ICIT) a new and expansively-minded graduate program at the University of California, Irvine. In November 2014, ICIT was approved for the unleashing of a new MA/PhD program, which will be offered starting fall 2015. Mitchell's recent composition, Flight for Freedom for Creative Flute and Orchestra, a Tribute to Harriet Tubman, premiered with the Chicago Composers' Orchestra in December 2011 and was presented again with CCO in May 2014. She was also commisisoned by Chicago Sinfonietta for Harambee: Road to Victory, for Solo Flute, Choir and Orchestra in January 2012. Her latest commission was from the French Ministry of Culture and the Royaumont Foundation in October 2014, which supported the development and French tour of Beyond Black - a collaboration with kora master Ballake Sissoko, Black Earth Ensemble and friends. Currently Mitchell is preparing her next commission supported by the French American Jazz Exchange, entitled Moments of Fatherhood, featuring Black Earth Ensemble and the Parisian chamber group L'Ensemble Laborintus, to premiere at the Sons d'hiver Jazz Festival in late January 2015.
Among the first class of Doris Duke Artists (2012), Mitchell works to raise respect and integrity for the improvised flute, to contribute her innovative voice to the jazz legacy, and to continue the bold and exciting directions that the AACM has charted for decades. With contemporary ensembles of varying instrumentation and size (from solo to orchestra), Mitchell's mission is to celebrate the power of endless possibility by "creating visionary worlds through music that bridge the familiar and the unknown." She is endorsed by Powell flutes."-Nicole Mitchell Website (http://nicolemitchell.com/)
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• Show Bio for David Boykin
"David Boykin began studying music on the clarinet at the age of 21 in 1991 and first performed professionally in 1997. He has released 16 recordings as a leader; appeared as a featured guest on other prominent musician's recordings, such as Nicole Mitchell, Chad Taylor, Josh Abrams, and Mike Reed; performed at major international jazz festivals and smaller jazz venues locally and globally; and founded Sonic Healing Ministries, which is an organization dedicated to the spiritual evolution of humanity through music."
Awards and Grants: Individual Artist Program, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, City of Chicago, 2015; Midwest Nexus Touring Exchange, Links Hall, Chicago 2015; Artist in Residence University of Chicago Department of Arts and Public Life 2013/2014; Galaxy Award, Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, 2011; Illinois Arts Council Fellowship For Music Composition, 2005; CAAP Grant, Chicago Department Of Cultural Affairs, 2005; Arts International Fund For US Artists Performing Abroad, 2002;CAAP Grant, Chicago Department Of Cultural Affairs, 2000"-David Boykin Website (http://davidboykin.com/bio.html)
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• Show Bio for Renee Baker
"Renèe Baker has been at the extreme forefront of creative/avant garde music whiledeveloping this unique ensemble since 1991. Utilizing some of the finest musicians that cross the classical world as well as jazz greates, she has crafted a group of the best traditionalists and married them to dedicated improvisors. A true genre bending experience- her skills as a conductor and musician coordinator have been used by some of the finest musical organizaitons in Chicago.
Ms. Baker is also the Artistic Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta Chamber Ensemble as well as Mantra Blue Free Orchestra. As an improvisor,Renèe has performed and recorded with Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Stringa, Karl E. H. Seigfried's New Quartet and Galaxy String Quartet, the David Boykin Expanse, Orbert Davis, George Lewis, Mwata Bowden, the Great Black Music Ensemble, the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. She is a member of the Chamber of the AACM, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. In recent years, Renèe has premiered original compositions with the Chicago Sinfonietta, The Joffrey Ballet Chamber Series, and as part of the PionoForte Salon Series and the Umbria Jazz Festival (Italy.) Future collaborations will include MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), Chiago Architecture Foundation, South Shore Cultural Center, among others.
Renèe is Principal Violinist of the Internationally renowned Chicago Sinfonietta; she has worked with the orchestra since its founding in 1987. She has been a participant in many international music festivals includign Classical Music Festival (Eisenstadt, Austria), and Philomusica di Chicago (Martigues, France.) She has performed extensively throughout Africa, Asia and Europe.
Her debut at the prestigious Ravinia Festival was as the viola soloist for "Don Quixote" (Strauss), in which she partnered with John Sharp, Principal Cellist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She has performed numerous solo recitals at venues such as the Chicago Cultural Center, and she has been a featured performer with many chamber music ensembles, including her own FAQtet - an ensemble that primarily performs classical repertoire by African-American composers. CMOP represents her debut as a conductor and composer-in-residence of this new music ensemble."-Chicago Modern Orchestra Project (http://www.chicagomodernorchestraproject.org/artistic-director/)
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• Show Bio for Jeff Parker
"Jeff Parker (born April 4, 1967) is an American jazz and rock guitarist based in Los Angeles. Parker is best known as an experimental musician, working with avant-garde electronic, rock, and improvisational groups.
Parker currently plays guitar in the post-rock group Tortoise and also was a founding member of the ensembles Isotope 217 and the Chicago Underground Trio in the 1990s and early 2000s. He is also a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, as well as working with musicians George Lewis, Ernest Dawkins, Brian Blade, Joshua Redman, Fred Anderson (musician) and Jason Moran. He has released three solo albums: Like-Coping, The Relatives and Bright Light in Winter."-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Parker_(musician))
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Song Based Music
Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
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Label: For Practically
Catalog ID: fpe001cd
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Recorded live at the MCA Stage in the Chicago Museum Of Contemporary Art, on April 30th, 2010, by Dennis O'Shea.
Nicole Mitchell-flute, composition
David Boykin-tenor sax, bass clarinet
David Young-trumpet, sralai thom
Jeff Parker-electric guitar
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1. Phases of Subduction 10:21
2. Cycle of Metamorphosis 5:31
3. The Ooli Moves 8:06
4. Dripping Matter 3:59
5. Negotiating Identity 7:44
6. Web of Hope 2:50
7. Fields of Possibility 5:50
8. Resisting Entanglement 6:19
9. The Inevitable 9:45