Key musicians from the Chicago scene, Nicole Mitchell
, Harrison Bankhead Sextet
and Hamid Drake
, created the Indigo Trio about six years ago. Since then, they've been exploring a musical field that faces the avant-garde of the improvisation.
Indigo Trio has produced some noticeable records, including Live In Montreal
(Greenleaf, 2007), Anaya
(RogueArt, 2008). For The Ethiopian Princess Meets The Tantric Priest
, Indigo Trio invites French flautist Michel Edelin
to share in the music. The Ethiopian Princess Meets The Tantric Priest
includes eight tracks, with four Mitchell compositions, two from Édelin and one from Bankhead, along with the collective improv of the title track. Mitchell and Édelin play all kind of flutes: concert flute, alto, bass, piccolo and wooden flute, Bankhead swaps bass for piano on "Return Of The Sun," and Drake plays both his kit and frame drum.
Indigo Trio's musical approach is full of singularities. First, the quartet sounds peculiar: the slender high-pitched metallic flutes contrast with the low woody bass and the deep animal drums. The music relies also on shades, the flutes drawing sinuous lines while the rhythm section creates a groove-centric background ("Wind Current"). The group plays free ("Top Secret"), close to contemporary music ("Inside the Earth"), with an African touch ("The Ethiopian Princess Meets the Tantric Priest") and almost mainstream ("Ambre Sunset"). Whatever the direction, the music always remains linked with melody and pulse.
Subtle and sensuous, Drake's drumming swings constantly and shows a wide range of tints: minimalist ("Top Secret"), thick ("Dérives"), tense ("Wind Current," "Return of the Sun"), and even near-bop ("Ambre Sunset"). Bankhead abounds in ideas, going from a fast walking bass ("Top Secret," "Wind Current," "Ambre Sunset") to hypnotic loops ("Call Back") and compelling patterns ("Wind Current"). Bankhead also bows curves ("Dérives," "The Ethiopian Princess Meets the Tantric Priest") and shrill passages ("Top Secret").
As far as the Ethiopian Princess
and the Tantric Priest
are concerned, they light the fireworks with tactful dialogues ("Top Secret"), almost Debussy-like questions and answers ( "Dérives"), stylish counterpoints ("Return of the Sun"), spinning duets ("Call Back"), impetuous reshufflings ("Ambre Sunset"), majestic moments ("The Ethiopian Princess Meets The Tantric Priest") and funny pieces reminiscent of Rahsaan Roland Kirk
("Call Back," "Ambre Sunset"). The musical connivance between Mitchell and Édelin finds its roots in the kind of free music without borders that both artists have been developing for years, in the steps of the AACM, John Coltrane
, and Don Cherry
. The Ethiopian Princess Meets The Tantric Priest
is not a musical meeting between Ethiopia and Indiaand is even less a cocktail of African rhythms and Indian raga, nor a mixture of jazz and world music. Instead, Lucy and Shiva meet together to play their own music, genuine and powerful.