flutist Nicole Mitchell
Contact: Black Earth Music
Nicole Mitchell has been noted as a compelling improviser of wit, determination, positivity, and tremendous talent...on her way to becoming one of the greatest living flutists in jazz, (Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader). A creative flutist, composer and bandleader, Mitchell placed first as Downbeat magazines "Rising Star Flutist 2005-2007, "and was awarded Chicagoan of the Year 2006 by the Chicago Tribune. The founder of the critically acclaimed Black Earth Ensemble and Black Earth Strings, Mitchells compositions reach across sound worlds, integrating new ideas with moments in the legacy of jazz, gospel, pop, and African percussion to create a fascinating synthesis of postmodern jazz. With her ensembles, as a featured flutist, and as a music educator, Mitchell has been a highlight at art venues, festivals throughout Europe, the U.S. and Canada. Mitchell has performed with creative luminaries including George Lewis, Miya Masaoka, Lori Freedman, James Newton, Bill Dixon and Muhal Richard Abrams. She also works on ongoing projects with Anthony Braxton, Ed Wilkerson, David Boykin, Rob Mazurek, Hamid Drake and Arveeayl Ra. Co-President of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Mitchell works to raise respect and integrity for the improvised flute, and to continue the bold and exciting directions that the AACM has charted for decades. Mitchell is thankful to mentors and teachers including: Jimmy Cheatham, Donald Byrd, Brenda Jones, James Newton, George Lewis, John Eaton, Fred Anderson, Ernest Dawkins, John Fonville, Susan Levitin, Mary Stolper, John Sebastian Winston and Edward Wilkerson
Highlights of 2007 included a commission from the Chicago Cultural Center and the Jazz Institute of Chicago for Black Earth Orchestra and premiere of Many Paths to the Sea: A Tribute to Alice Coltrane, a chamber orchestra commission/premiere from Downtown Sound Gallery (Chicago) for Qualities of My Father, a tribute to Mitchell's father, the commission/premiere of Xenogenesis Suite, an award winning sci-fi writer and Afrofuturist, Octavia Butler by Chamber Music America (through the generous support of Doris Duke Foundation), a premiere of new music for award-winning poet Haki R. Madhubuti and the founding of Mitchell's newest group, the Nicole Mitchell Quartet. Mitchell also currently directs the Wheaton Jazz Ensemble at Wheaton College and teaches jazz history at University of Illinois, Chicago.
The best jazz flautist around today is back with another strong album. Chicago-based Mitchells imaginative arrangements showcase her versatile playing in its best light. The album starts in a swinging head/solo/head fashion then moves into more involved song structures as the disc wears on. Jeff Parkers presence on guitar substitutes for Mitchells expansive use of percussion on her first three records. His rhythmic contributions often sit where the percussion once was and on more impressionistic tracks, like the beautiful Sun Cycles, adds many different colours. The Creator Has Other Plans For Me is a great riff on the title of the too-often covered Leon Thomas/Pharoah Sanders tune, while Love Has No Boundaries is greasy blues that breaks into a killer vocal riff by the end of the song. Like the Association for Advancement for Creative Musicians in Chicago, of which she is co-president, her music runs the gamut from blues to minimalism to freedom. Black Unstoppable is brimming with soul, the kind you need in your windy city during these winter months.
Your website states that your Delmark release is the first by a woman instrumentalist in 50 years. Who realised that and when? What kind of difference does it make?
I pointed it out. I was going through their catalogue and asked them. Theyve had plenty of blues singers, but [I asked], have you had any women instrumentalists? And theyre like, oops! (laughs) I think that shows that people have to pay attention. There were certainly artists who were deserving before I came along.
From an outsiders perspective, it appears that theres a fair amount of collaboration between artists associated with Thrill Jockey and the AACM in Chicago. Is this a genuine exchange or is it mostly an album credit phenomenon?
I think theres always been a collaboration or integration of the scene that hasnt been widely recognised outside of Chicago. The issue in Chicago is not so much about musicians not coming together; its more about location and venues. The relocation of [Fred Andersons avant-jazz Mecca] the Velvet Lounge to the near South side brought a coming together of a lot of musicians and you see that reflected in the schedule. Theres been a shift and its definitely more reflective of the entire Chicago musical landscape.