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Nicole Mitchell's Sonic Projections: Emerald Hills

Lyn Horton By

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Nicole Mitchell's Sonic Projections: Emerald Hills 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.


Track Listing: Visitations; Ritual and Rebellion; Chocolate Chips; Wild Life; Wishes; Emerald Hills; Surface of Syrius; Affirmations; Peace.

Personnel: Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, piccolo, vocals; Craig Taborn: piano; David Boykin: tenor saxophone; Chad Taylor: drum set.

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Rogueart Records | Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde


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