Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, piccolo, vocals | Craig Taborn: piano | David Boykin: tenor saxophone | Chad Taylor: drumset, percussion
Recorded on May 4th, and 5th 2009 by John McEntire at Soma Electronic Music Studio, Chicago, Il, USA. Mixed by John McEntire. Mastering: Jean-Pierre Bouquet at L’autre Studio, Vaires-sur-Marne, France. Liner Notes: Alexandre Pierrepont. Photographs: Michael Jackson, RogueArt. Cover Design: Max Schoendorff. Cover Realisation: David Bourguignon, URDLA. Producer: Michel Dorbon
Tracklist: 1. Visitations (9:05) 2. Ritual and Rebellion (11:48) 3. Chocolate Chips (6:43) 4. Wild Life (3:59) 5. Wishes (5:15) 6. Emerald hills (11:28) 7. Chocolate Chips (6:43) 8. Surface of Syrius (2:10) 9. Affirmations (14:57) 10. Peace (5:56)
All compositions by Nicole Mitchell except Wild Life by Nicole Mitchell & David Boykin and Surface of Syrius by David Boykin & Craig Taborn
…The writing, or rather the musical cards
drawn up by Nicole Mitchell for Sonic Projections carefully and continuously handle many openings and many transitions.
…It is fascinating to hear each musician circulating freely in the space of each piece, following the internal logic of the proposed forms and spacing them out, bringing in other forms inside and round about – stretching and projecting the meaning, as if to respect the opulence of things with their doubles. Each musician is himself a space and a passing place. Such is David Boykin on Wishes, leaning against the other three and giving out one of his enigmatic rewound solos; such is the transformational duo between Craig Taborn and Chad Taylor on the second half of Emerald Hills, passing completely as the interventions or non-interventions of the saxophonist and the flutist go by.
…And if a volcano can project, on demand, lava, sulfur, cinders or scoria, this music projects vision and nourishment. « That’s what I love about music – the unlimited possibilities – and always restless to try something else. » — Alexandre Pierrepont, excerpt from the liner notes
All four of flutist Nicole Mitchell’s groups
reveal specific tangents which her music can follow. One of those groups—Sonic Projections, whose evolution grew out of paying tribute to George Lewis’ book A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008)—shows what Mitchell believes to be her rebellious side. Mitchell is herself a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM).
Sonic Projections consists of Mitchell, pianist Craig Taborn, tenor saxophonist David Boykin, and drummer Chad Taylor. There is no bass. Emerald Hills projects a thinking person’s music.
The music is concerned with extending range, discovering sound and transforming what melody there is into synchronicities, choruses and lyrical interludes; it is also concerned with telling stories through musical metaphors. Considered as an entire statement, the journey this album takes is one of the recognition of the individual, in no matter how dissonant or harmonious the context. Each track continues a musical idea or changes course, not in the radical sense, but with recovered breath to reach another stepping stone to realization of the collective improvisational consciousness.
“Ritual and Rebellion,” explores a number of directions that includes not only the recitation of poetic lines, but also the congruent trekking of the flute and saxophone; the piano and drums act as a subterranean punctuating non- rhythmic support for the two wind instruments for the major part of the piece. The piano takes over the lead for a nearly orchestral close. “Affirmations” brackets the album with an equally expressive presentation of vocals, integrated with an instrumental simulation of vocal intonation.
The most lyrical lines arrive midway through the recording in “Wishes,” where the flute and sax merge to maintain a nearly melancholic flow. The flute takes flight throughout the record and the piano is often not far behind. The sax anchors the pitch of the flute, whether playing in unison or contrapuntally, and balances the sound so that both height and depth are enclosed in the same embracing package. Flirting with sound and silence, “Peace” absorbs the vicissitudes of the preceding improvisation. Emerald Hills ends in a waft of piccolo whistling that breathlessly fades away. — Lyn Horton
CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)
In some ways Chicago-based flautist Nicole Mitchell’s Emerald Hills resembles an old style AACM record: there’s an adventurous spirit, a diversity of approaches, and chops to burn. More recent reference points include Mitchell’s own Xenogenesis Suite (Firehouse 12, 2008) but (largely) without the challenging vocals. Joining Mitchell in the quartet she calls Sonic Projections, are long time associate David Boykins on tenor saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Chad Taylor behind the traps.
A lot of detail is rammed into the 71-minute program. Mitchell’s writing frames opportunities for exploring all the combinations inherent in the band, often with the flautist taking a back seat. In particular it provides a great showcase for Boykins who boasts one of the largest tenor sounds this side of David S. Ware, but doesn’t too often get the chance to prove it. Taborn also benefits from the generous solo space whether propounding angular pyrotechnics or endowing his hands with independent motion at opposite ends of the keyboard.
Mitchell displays her distinctively expressionistic approach to the flute, whereby her blown multiphonics are expanded by vocalizations in symbiotic interweaving, for added emotional kick. Overlapping voices open the portentous “Ritual and Rebellion,” recalling similar gambits by Muhal Richard Abrams and the Art Ensemble Of Chicago, while Mitchell’s naïf, half-spoken lyrics enter the mix on “Affirmations.” Fortunately for those who prefer to avoid vocals, such moments are few and do not detract from the heavyweight instrumental work, and the piece develops intensity with darting flute, Taborn in full flight and Boykins slow burning tenor preaching.
Flute and tenor saxophone harmonics intermingle on “Wild Life,” Boykins squeaks in contrast to buzzing growls from Mitchell in a striking role reversal. Taylor gets down in a series of duets, sandwiched between edgy themes, on “Chocolate Chips,” where his earthy drums ground the leader’s spiraling declamations. Taborn shines on the title track, his ringing piano shadowing Taylor’s choppy clatter as the horns juxtapose a repeated unison, getting wilder until a grinding halt. “Peace” is all wavering overtones and single struck notes, forming a palate cleansing finale to one of Mitchell’s strongest albums.