Goddesses walk among us; witness these new releases by two formidable female talents, Hope, Future and Destiny by Nicole Mitchell and the Black Earth Ensemble and Nod by the Jessica Jones Quartet.
Hope, Future and Destiny
Mitchell's CD originates from her multi-arts community play that featured a cast of 50 and included dance, video, acting and live original music. The CD is an aural feast with some of the most joyful, uplifting jazz in recent memory, a panoply of sounds and textures including funk, Caribbean, Latin and blues, plus a healthy dose of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) aesthetic. Mitchell is one of the younger members of the AACM and the Black Earth Ensemble includes seasoned AACM members Arveeayl Ra on drums and Art "Turk" Burton on percussion, plus 11 other excellent musicians.
The CD is full of gems, including the full out funky groove of "Curbside Fantasee" and the buoyant "Skating," which has a lovely melody and big band energy. The centerpiece is "Journey for 3 Blue Stones": the song has a hypnotic, intoxicating rhythm, with haunting lyrics by Mitchell and great violin work by Savoir Faire. Mitchell wrote all 13 songs on the CD; her compositions have great richness with arrangements melding instruments as various as cello and rainstick, testimony to her creativity and wide open musical vocabulary. A genuine force of nature only in her mid-30s, Mitchell is a talent to watch and Hope, Future and Destiny an excellent introduction to her vision.
Nod by the Jessica Jones Quartet is an intimate CD, a family affair that includes Jones on tenor sax and piano, her husband Tony Jones on tenor sax (plus co-author of two tracks), with their children Candace and Levi contributing vocals on two cuts. The CD is a successful mix of different musical traditions and a nod to various musicians who have inspired Jones; the songs range from the standard "These Foolish Things" to Jackie McLean's "Little Melonae" to the Jones' wonderful jazz/hiphop hybrid "Platform Shoes- Apocalypse."
There's a wonderful openheartedness to this music, a generosity and warmth rare to behold. Part of the feeling comes from Jones' tenor; she's a strong player with a beautiful tone and an innate sense of swing. She's also an excellent composer, particularly her tribute to Wayne Shorter, "Waynopolis." The group is billed as a quartet, but several guest artists add more magic to the mix: Joseph Jarman plays alto sax on his terrific composition "Happiness Is"; Connie Crothers plays piano on her piece "Bird's Word" as well as Jarman's tune; and Mark Taylor plays French horn on three cuts. All these strong talents meld together to create exuberant jazz, making Nod one of the year's most enjoyable releases.
Hope, Future and Destiny
Tracks: Wondrous Birth (Intro); Wondrous Birth; Curbside Fantasee; For Daughters of Young Love; Journey for 3 Blue Stones (with text); Message from the Mothergoddess; In the Garden; Skating; Wanna Make You Smile; Future's Meditation; The Healing Ritual; Time for Change; Journey for 3 Blue Stones
Personnel: Nicole Mitchell: alto flute, vocals, flute, melodica; David Boykin-tenor sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet; Tony Hererra: trombone, shells; Savoir Faire: violin; Corey Wilkes: trumpet; Tomeka Reid: cello; Josh Abrams: bass; Tim Jones: guitar; Brian Nichols: piano, glockenspiel; Glenda Zahra Baker: vocals, rainstick; Aquilla Sadalla: vocals; Edie Armstrong: shekere, rainstick, vocals; Arveeayl Ra: drums, gongs; Art "Turk" Burton: percussion.
Tracks: Bird's Word; Little Melonae; Happiness Is; Waynopolis; Love and Persevere; Manhattan; These Foolish Things; Platform Shoes.
Personnel: Jessica Jones: tenor saxophone and piano; Tony Jones: tenor saxophon; Ken Filiano: bass; Derrek Phillips: drums; Connie Crothers: piano; Joseph Jarman: alto sax; Mark Taylor: French horn; Candace Jones: vocals; Levi Jones: vocals.