All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 (or more) and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help

269

Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Strings: Renegades

Nic Jones By
Published:
Sign in to view read count
Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Strings: Renegades Here's where Nicole Mitchell's art comes together. Whereas her previous releases could have been marked by the perhaps inevitable signs of individuality coming into being, here the overall coherence of the music is extraordinary, aided in no small part by her choice of cohorts and their evidently strong commitment to group identity and singular music possessed of infinite variety and shades. In short, both Mitchell and the Black Earth Strings have come of age.

The knowledge of it starts from the bottom up, so to speak. Drummer and percussionist Shirazette Tinnin is a player after the nature of Famoudou Don Moye in the sense that she gives of herself in the service of a group aesthetic even while she retains a depth of identity. It's obvious on "Waterdance," where she imparts momentum into proceedings which might otherwise drift, whilst the fatback funk of "What If" is a denial of the musical forces disposed in the best sense. Mitchell negotiates the odd intervals with aplomb whilst Tinnin and bassist Josh Abrams lay it down.

This is an ensemble that can do reflective too. "Waris Dirie" is lyrical yet disturbed, as indicative as anything here of the anxiety that's been a mark of Mitchell's previous music on record, before it settles down to become something else. The momentum of the piece is fundamentally at odds with what happens melodically but the resulting tension, destined to remain tantalizingly unresolved, is abundantly rewarding.

"Wade" is an exercise in avoiding the potentially tiresome aspects of working with strings, although its formalism is at odds with a lot of what's going on here. Tomeka Reid's cello is both dark and ambiguous until the music finds its feet in a manner that's a celebration of spontaneous form. When they come together Reid and violinist/violist Renee Baker do so with celebration in mind anyway, and their joint efforts sing loud.

Whilst there's nothing inherently wrong with Mitchell's vocal on "By My Own Grace," it does have the effect of breaking the spell created by the music that precedes it as the level of non-verbal communication imparted is exciting and stimulating enough. This might seem like a churlish criticism but in view of the fact that this is an ensemble that plays together for all the right reasons it seems worthwhile making it. As it is it takes nothing away from a body of music that proclaims its individuality from the rooftops, and the fact that it does this with such fervor only goes to show that when the right hands come along improvised music has more than a beautiful past in front of it.


Track Listing: Crossroads; No Matter What; Ice; Windance; Renegades; By My Own Grace; What If; Symbology #2A; Wade; Waterdance; Symbology #1; Mama Found Out; If I Could Have You The Way I Want You; Symbology #2; Waris Dirie; Aayas Rainbow.

Personnel: Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, piccolo, vocals; Renee Baker: violin, viola; Tomeka Reid: cello; Josh Abrams: bass, gimbre; Shirazette Tinnin: drums, percussion.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Delmark Records | Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde


Shop For Jazz

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
Read more articles
Artifacts
Artifacts
482 Music
2016
buy
Artifacts
Artifacts
482 Music
2015
buy
Engraved In The Wind
Engraved In The Wind
Rogue Art
2014
buy
Intergalactic Beings
Intergalactic Beings
Fpe Records
2014
buy
The Secret Escapades of Velvet Anderson
The Secret Escapades...
Rogue Art
2014
buy
[no cover]
Engraved In The Wind
Delmark Records
2013
buy
Steve Lacy Steve Lacy
sax, soprano
Roswell Rudd Roswell Rudd
trombone
Ari Brown Ari Brown
sax, tenor
David S. Ware David S. Ware
sax, tenor
Art Ensemble Of Chicago Art Ensemble Of Chicago
band/orchestra
Bill Dixon Bill Dixon
trumpet
Kahil El'Zabar Kahil El'Zabar
percussion

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.