The release of flutist Nicole Mitchell's Black Unstoppable as a DVD as well as a CD presents the listener with a difficult choice beyond the usual dichotomy of sound or (added) vision. Although the program is the same (though with two tracks fewer than on the studio CD), the 82-minute DVD features extended live performances, recorded in June 2007, at Fred Anderson's new Velvet Lounge.
Black Earth Ensemble is Mitchell's prime compositional outlet, though in exploiting the broad instrumental palette, her breathtaking flute work sometimes gets short shrift. While often pigeonholed as an avant-garde musician, Mitchell's conception here is much wider, also encompassing R&B, jazz, blues and classical elements, sometimes cheek by jowl in the same piece, fitting for the co-president of Chicago's AACM. Though the switches between genres can sometimes feel jarring on disc, the visual continuity, aided by the aural glue of the adventurous soloing, makes them seem much less so here.
Filmed straightforwardly, from multiple viewpoints, with only sparing use of effects, the film paints a vivid picture of the Black Earth Ensemble in concert. As a bonus there is an insightful commentary from Mitchell available as a voice over above the concert footage, detailing the inspiration for her compositions, the other bandmembers, Mitchell's background and her current activities. While the performances on both the CD and DVD are rewarding, forced to choose, the extended renditions and well-used solo space, together with Mitchell's revealing commentary mean that the DVD just shades it by a short head.
Tracks: First Track; Second Track.
Personnel: Player Name: instrument; Player Name: instrument.