Hamid Drake | Nicole Mitchell | Harrison Bankhead | Indigo Trio | Anaya | RogueArt Jazz

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Nicole Mitchell : flute, alto flute, piccolo | Harrison Bankhead : basse, cello | Hamid Drake : drumset, frame drum

Recorded on June 2008 in New York (USA) by Leon Lee Dorsey. Mixing : John McEntire. Mastering : Jean-Pierre Bouquet. Liner Notes : Ellen Waterman. Photographs : Lorna Lentini. Producer : Michel Dorbon

Tracklist: 1. Sho Ya Right (8:10) 2. A Child’s Curiosity (13:10) 3. Anaya with the Sunlight (13:58) 4. Song for Ma’at (Ma-ah-t) (8:48) 5. Beloved’s Reflection (5:38) 6. Wheatgrass (7:19) 7. Anaya with the Moon (8:34) 8. Affirmation of the One (2:25)

Creative music making is a matter of energy, heart, and trust

and when all three are present the music flies. A meeting of three old Chicago friends and collaborators, flutist Nicole Mitchell, drummer Hamid Drake, and bassist Harrison Bankhead, the Indigo Trio soars with the kind of spiritual energy that has inspired Great Black Music from its inception…

Building a bridge between composition and improvisation, Bankhead, Drake, and Mitchell have created an inspiring second CD. With their spirit of openness and generosity, the Indigo Trio model the poet Rumi’s insight that “only from the heart can you touch the sky.” — Ellen Waterman, excerpt from the liner notes

Hamid Drake |  Nicole Mitchell |  Harrison Bankhead | Indigo Trio | Anaya | rogueart jazz

Indigo Trio | Photo by Lorna Lentini

The Indigo Trio’s sophomore outing

on the classy French Rogue Art imprint delivers the record fans of Nicole Mitchell the flutist have been waiting for. Mitchell the composer and arranger has been to the fore of late on Black Unstoppable (Delmark, 2007) and most notably Xenogenesis Suite (Firehouse 12, 2008), but with instrumentation stripped to the bare essentials, her unique flute styling finally gets the shop window it deserves.

Not that this is a solo vehicle. Any set featuring the Chicago triumvirate of master drummer Hamid Drake and bassist and cellist Harrison Bankhead alongside Mitchell is going to focus on infectious world rhythms, extemporized harmonies, and adventurous soloing, but it all comes together superbly on this well recorded studio set, with time well-taken to ensure they’re on the money. Billed as a co-operative, all three participants divide the composer credits, along with one group effort in the 68-minute program.

Drake and Bankhead have gigged together since they were 14 years old, with countless hours supporting veteran AACM saxophonist Fred Anderson, and it shows in their near telepathic understanding and seamlessly shifting grooves, as in the multi-sectioned “A Child’s Curiosity,” or the embellishments which still somehow coalesce to mark time in “Anaya with the Moon”. Drake has few equals in such territory, swinging the band while rarely playing the same thing twice. Bankhead rides shotgun, but also brings his considerable melodic sensibilities to the feast.

Mitchell’s flute soars with inspired abandon; fluent with a full-toned tensile core, it drifts languidly one minute, dipping and diving triumphantly the next. While standing on the shoulders of giants of the instrument like Rahsaan Roland Kirk and James Newton, Mitchell’s expressive blending of high voice with flute is all her own. Chirrups, yelps, gasps, and squeals intertwine with blown notes to the extent that it is hard to know whether it should be categorized as singing or playing, though ultimately it inhabits a delicious territory known only to her midway between.

But this is about the whole not the parts. Fertile interactions abound: on Drake’s “Anaya with the Sunlight,” named for his grand-daughter, Bankhead’s bass channels a doussn’ gouni at the start before slipping into a driving riff to inspire Mitchell to her most exciting solo of the set. Elsewhere, in the companion piece “Anaya with the Moon,” midway through Mitchell quotes one of Bankhead’s favourite phrases back at him, which must have sparked smiles in the studio. Whether impressively setting out their wares on the flag-waving opener, toying with eastern rhythms and devotional melodies on the collective “Song for Ma’at,” or negotiating the thorny unison of “Wheatgrass,” where Mitchell’s vibrant piccolo pierces the choppy bustle, there is a cohesive group feel throughout. Rounding out the set, “Affirmation of the One” is a gentle solo goodbye from Bankhead: lyrical plucking low on the fretboard contrasts with a framework of resonant strums, before a questioning unresolved ending to this superlative document. — John Sharpe

 

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One thought on “Hamid Drake | Nicole Mitchell | Harrison Bankhead | Indigo Trio | Anaya | RogueArt Jazz

  1. Originating in Chicago with flutist Nicole Mitchell, bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Hamid Drake, the Indigo Trio derives its impetus from multiple sources. The trio’s Anaya clearly manifests roots in African-American traditions, influenced by mid-eastern spiritual tenets to convey a unique picture of beginnings, growth and convergence with universal truth.

    Mitchell’s articulation on the flute opens this recording, bright and spry in a joyous orientation that represents the playful, uplifting character of all the music (Mitchell’s “Sho Ya Right”). The bass plays a crucial role in unifying the trio, as the reverberating echo to the flute’s predominating musical line. The drums explore diversified undercurrents to complement, respond and ornament tones that emanate from both the flute and the bass.

    The innocence which the flute channels, pervades the album. Mitchell not only blows through her instrument in an even, full staccato array of notes (Drake’s “Anaya with the Sunlight”), but also buzzes, forms vibratos and arranges her breath and voice to invent a language that captivates the essence of meaning inherent in the theme laid before her (Bankhead’s “A Child’s Curiosity”). How she sculpts the sound (Drake’s “Anaya with the Moon”), in her moves from one note to another, maximizes timbre, demonstrates the use of her breath, embouchure and her attention to inflection. Her own “Beloved’s Reflection” and “Wheatgrass,” in which she plays the piccolo, unveils her capacity, through gleeful vagaries, to make pure, unequivocal space.

    Although he utilizes formidable arco technique (bass in “A Child’s Curiosity,” cello in “Song for Ma’at”), Bankhead performs exceptional solo pizzicato introductions to the music twice (“Anaya with the Sunlight,” “Anaya with the Moon”). Generally, his solo pizzicato reveals his sense of detail, timing (“Wheatgrass”) and extraordinary versatility with the bass’ range of intonation. He can play as delicately in the high register as he would play a mandolin and, in the same gesture, find the lowest rhythmic lithe fingering sets imaginable (“Beloved’s Reflection”). Bankhead is the only instrumentalist in his own “Affirmation of the One,” where he confirms his mastery of the bent pitch.

    Drake reigns as supreme évocateur. His drumming springs forth with intention and certain responsiveness. His talent in drawing abstract aural pictures that complement and extend the quality of the instruments with which he is working is inimitable. Drake becomes not only the rhythmic heartbeat for Mitchell and Bankhead, but also the cloak that surrounds them and the floor on which they stand. The tensionless motion applied to click the metal edge of the snare, the cymbal, and find combinations of the components of his kit, exhibits his reliability, strength and contentment.

    Midway through the recording comes the most complex and centered of the pieces, “Song of Ma’at,” a collective improvisation. Drake’s employ of frame drum exemplifies an apotheosis of his indivisible involvement with moment; moreover, it exposes that the Indigo Trio is one of “God’s best answers” for unfurling creative music.

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