Monday, December 26, 2011

Best Albums of 2011: Nicole Mitchell

JazzWrap revisits a great year of discoveries in 2011.

Nicole Mitchell (flute)
Awakening (Delmark; 2011)
Avreeayl Ra (drums)
Jeff Parker (guitar)
Harrison Bankhead (bass)

Awakening was one of a slew of records that came at me out of nowhere. I quickly feel in love with Nicole Mitchell's performance here. The writing is tight, spiritual and groovy all at once. As I mentioned in my discussion of the album, it brings back a lot of that Black Power Jazz that floated between Detroit, Chicago and New York in the late '60s and early '70s. There are also moments where the experience of playing with the likes Rob Mazurek in Exploding Star Orchestra seems to have rubbed off ("Journey Of A Thread"). The quartet setting allows the individuals to stand out more. Mitchell's quiet and personal display on "Snowflakes" is indicative of touching Awakening can be on the listener.

Jeff Parker compliments Mitchell on this session with stellar playing that shift from blues to improvised jazz so smoothly you barely notice the changes. Harrison Bankhead and Avreeayl Ra (bass and drums respectively) do more than keep the time and rhythm. Ra's solo during moments is killer and unexpected after the mood Mitchell has set to this point. Bankhead adds a funky but sinister bassline to "There" which Mitchell tempers with some gentle but free moving colours.

Awakening is a laid back, psychedelic, soulful work that won't have you talking about the flute. It will have you taking about the composer. Here's our first discussion on Awakening.

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