Nicole Mitchell | Engraved in the Wind | RogueArt Jazz

rogueart jazz

Nicole Mitchell: C flutes & alto flute

All compositions by Nicole Mitchell except Dadwee, Six Wings, Pratagraha: Virtue of Freedom from Attachment, Song of Suchness and Agoru III respectively by Aaya Samaa/Nicole Mitchell, James Newton, Renée Baker, Yung Wha Son and Alvin Singleton. Aaya Samaa/Nicole Mitchell, James Newton, Renée Baker and Yung Wha Son pieces have been composed especially for Nicole Mitchell and for this album.

Nicole Mitchell plays a Powell Conservatory flute that was made especially for her.

Recorded by Michael Mathews between October 20th to 24th 2012 at Xmpl Studio, UC Irvine, California, USA. Mixing & mastering: Griffin Rodriguez at Shape Shop II, Hollywood, California, USA. Liner notes: Joe Morris. Photograph: RogueArt. Cover design: Max Schoendorff. Cover realization: David Bourguignon, URDLA. Producer: Michel Dorbon

Track list: 1. Blue Montain (2:53) 2. Dadwee (3:57) 3. Forest Family (3:12) 4. Cave of Forgoten Spring (2:48) 5. Six Wings (4:59) 6. Beehive (3:57) 7. Making of Rose Quartz (5:09) 8. Pratagraha: Virtue of Freedom from Attachment (6:17) 9. Desert Choir (1:29) 10. Boiling River (3:26) 11. Song of Suchness (7:31)12. High Light ar the Waterfall (4:00) 13. Glacier Wall (4:35) 14. Agoru III (3:48) 15. Engraved in the Wind (3:33) 16. Fireflies and Mischief on Dada B’s Porch (3:51)

Nicole Mitchell | Engraved in the Wind | rogueart jazz

In my book, Perpetual Frontier: The Properties of Free Music

Nicole Mitchell writes “Nature is my teacher of both ‘endless possibilities’ and ‘the relationship between the familiar and the unknown,'” she says. “The whole spectrum of color, texture, form, energy, depth and sound is expressed in its fullest diversity all around us, through the sky, mountains, deserts, water, forests and all the creatures from microscopic to massive.”

Considering these words while listening to this music I have to say that Engraved in the Wind is the perfect name for this project. Obviously, the wind has more than one meaning here. You can hear the wind in every breath used to make every sound on this amazing recording. The notion of the wind is also descriptive of the elusive and elemental beauty present in the evocative expression that is engraved in every sound on this recording. The titles of the pieces reflect Nicole Mitchell’s deep connection to nature, which inspires her and informs her artistry.

A performance of one’s solo music is particularly revealing. This recording is a distilled and rarified statement that further solidifies Nicole Mitchell’s position as a major voice in creative music. Perhaps more importantly, she has made music that can be understood and enjoyed by anyone who is able to recognize beauty and fine musicianship. For those of us who know her work in groups, or are more akin to the particulars of creative music, we can also enjoy her complete originality heard all by itself and her ability to make new music that reminds us that our particular continuum is one of constant innovation, where the best of the new reminds us of what is eternal.

This example of solo music profoundly reflects on nature of existence, and it does so without ever resorting to contrivance or cliche”. The individual pieces are themselves elegant natural objects presented in a calm, patient way. They emerge with a delicate balance of clarity, a palpable sense of the joy of discovery, and a gravitas rendered in technical mastery and control over the entire range of the flute. This mastery ensures that there is never a wasted idea or sound. Nicole Mitchell’s playing is uniquely soulful, lyrical, and articulate. There is a nurturing quality to it. It feels as if her flute playing is so closely connected to her thought process, that it seems she is using the same process and reflex that she would use to generate her speaking voice. And so the pacing, dynamics, phrases, and timbres vary as easily and naturally as if there is no instrument between her ideas and the sounds she makes. As she finesses every possible timbre out of every note the result is telling, as if she is reciting a personal and epic narrative of her observances and reflections on her life, and the nature of universally pondered things. She exercises the power of subtlety in every aspect of this music, helped by the quality of this recording, which is so clear that you can almost feel her breath come out of the speakers.

Nicole Mitchell | Engraved in the Wind | rogueart jazz

Her compositions here were spontaneously made through improvisation. Each has a coherent, organic shape and character. They go where they go, end when they end, and in the process each one offers a different listening experience and each functions as a cogent template for her improvisational elaboration. The configuration of ideas in sound, phrase, piece, and sequence reveals all manner of imagery and spirits conjured in a way that declares that it is as much about all of us as it is about the performer. This music invites us to decipher its unique codes and encourages us to interpret them in our own way. It suggests a myriad of meanings and impressions rendered in flawless technique. For instance, Beehive has a singing buzzing sound of multiple overdubbed flutes. It recalls the ethereal quality of a glass harp or of a prayer bowl, as well as of the sound of flying insects. Here Nicole Mitchell seems to overcome the very physical connection to her instrument and arrive at pure sound. But in the next piece, Making of Rose Quartz, she pulls the sound from the flute in rich, thick legato and multi-phonic phrases, and singing bluesy, soulful phrases in unison with her playing, and in so doing connects us to her most heart-felt sensibilities.

Her interpretations of the wholly distinctive works composed for her by Renee Baker (Pra-tagraha: Virtue of Freedom from Attachment); James Newton (Six Wings); Yung Wha Son (Song of Suchness); a co-composition with Aaya Samaa (Dadwee); and her performance of Alvin Singleton’s Agoru III (1971), blend seamlessly with her own pieces—a testament to the strength of her artistic posture and the clarity of her vision. Clearly, the mastery that these composers bring shows that they understand the qualities present in Nicole Mitchell’s skills and voice as well.

This recording is a virtuosic tour-de-force. The technical achievement of this music stands on its own and defines Nicole Mitchell as an innovator and expressive artist with a depth of mastery that surpasses even that which we already know about her. Consider the exacting precision of every sound made here, the multi-phonics, the sustain and variation of pitch, the rhythmic phrasing, the sheer beauty of the intonation, the arch and fluid execution of every phrase regardless of the velocity or density of notes, and the. tremendous and complex variety of timbre, articulation, and variation of groove. All of these elements make Engraved in the Wind a masterful work of solo music, a great achievement for Nicole Mitchell and a deeply rewarding listening experience for the rest of us. — Joe Morris, November 2012


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One thought on “Nicole Mitchell | Engraved in the Wind | RogueArt Jazz

  1. As a musician, flutist Nicole Mitchell brooks no constraints to her artistry. Not content with large scale orchestral works, such as Arc of O (Rogue Art, 2012), small group interaction with her Indigo Trio and mid-sized ensembles exemplified by her Black Earth Ensemble on Three Compositions (Rogue Art, 2013), she now takes on the ultimate challenge for the single line instrumentalist: the solo album. Of course, it’s a misnomer to suggest that Mitchell can only follow one tack at once, as her prowess with multiphonics created by simultaneously using her voice and flute means that she often evinces two or more concurrent lines which blur the distinction between larynx and instrument. However that’s not to imply that technique scores at the expense of feeling as Mitchell also draws deeply upon her lyrical and soulful side.

    Perhaps the pre-eminent flute stylist in contemporary jazz, Mitchell brings her compositional sensibility to bear on a program of sixteen mostly short cuts which examine a fascinating range of ideas. Interspersed among the largely extemporized pieces by Mitchell are five from the pens of others, written specially for this project. Adding further variety, and perhaps recognizing the task inherent in maintaining attention alone, Mitchell also utilizes over dubbing to provide her own counterpoint on four tracks. In this she recalls the experiments of one of her inspirations, James Newton who also multi-tracked his flute to stunning effect on Paseo Del Mar (India Navigation, 1979).

    Mitchell calls on Newton more directly, as he contributes a piece for her—the punchy “Six Wings” which alternates drawn out tones and skippy altissimo phrases. Of the other commissions, most notable are Mitchell’s collaboration with Aaya Samaa on the singing “Dadwee” and Yung Wha Son’s “Song of Suchness” where sustained microtonality give way first to spacious meditation and then joyous folkiness before a return to the opening gambit. Many of the tune titles allude to the natural world, and indeed there is an elemental quality which pervades Mitchell’s performance, manifest clearly on the rippling “Blue Mountain,” the zinging dissonances of “Beehive,” and the excitable multiple chorus of the pleasing “High light at the Waterfall.” While unaccompanied flute may not be for everyone, those with an interest in either Mitchell or the instrument will be richly rewarded.

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