AMN Reviews: Nicole Mitchell – Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (2017; FPE Records)

Former Chicagoan Nicole Mitchell, now a professor of music and composition at UC Irvine, doesn’t just release albums. She releases stories in musical form. Influenced by the writings of Afrofuturist Octavia Butler as well as a musical melange including rock, jazz, gospel, modern classical, and world music, Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds is the latest effort from Mitchell’s long-running Black Earth Ensemble.

On this go-around, the Mitchell is joined by Renée Baker on violin, Tomeka Reid on cello, Alex Wing on guitar and oud, Jovia Armstrong on percussion, Tatsu Aoki on bass, shamisen, and taiko, and Kojiro Umezakion on shakuhachi (end-blown flute). Between Mitchell’s flute, the oud, percussion, and Japanese instruments, Mandorla Awakening II has an Eastern, if not aboriginal tone. Featuring complex and thoughtful compositions, each with its respective share of open-endedness, the album explores a dichotomy between two societies. One is an all too familiar one in which social justice and equality are not to be found, while in the other spirituality, technology, and egalitarianism co-exist peacefully.

Musically, it is not always clear which of these societies is being portrayed. Is the harsh guitar and violin work on Forest Wall Timewalk a representation of the former? Certainly, the chanted spoken word contributions of poet Avery R. Young are a polemic against the lack of progress fighting injustice. In some cases, such as Egoes War, Mitchell appears to juxtapose one on top of the other. Her ability to do so without losing track of a piece’s overall theme is similar to how Sun Ra would combine the harsh and the cosmic. On the other hand, the flute and shakuhachi dueling over a guitar rhythm on Dance of Many Hands is outright joyful.

Not unlike a society, Mitchell’s compositions are at their finest when contributions from all performers are represented. The result is a subtle, world-music-inflected chamber jazz with the occasional assertiveness of the aforementioned Ra. Mitchell is presenting an optimistic possible future – one in which humanity achieves a more just form of civilization.  Perhaps that is what we need given the recent rise of dystopias in our popular fiction and politics.

The Free Jazz Collective Reviews

Aki Takase

Source: The Free Jazz Collective.

Daniele D’Agaro / Giovanni Maier / Zlatko Kaučič – Disorder at the Border plays Ornette (Not Two, 2016) ***1/2
Zlatko Kaučič Cerkno Jubileum Orchestra ‎– Zvočni Sejalec (Klopotec, 2016) ****
Orchestra Senza Confini / Orkester Brez Meja ‎– Schengen (Dobialabel, 2016) ***1/2
Aki Takase and David Murray – Cherry-Sakura (Intakt, 2017) ****
Filosofer – landet er gitt oss (Nakama Records, 2016) ***½
Nakama – Grand Line (Nakama Records, 2016) ****
Nakama – Most Intimate (Nakama Records, 2016) ****
DR. MiNT – Voices In the Void (Orenda, 2017) ****
Cathlene Pineda – Passing: A California Suite (Orenda, 2016) ***
Alexander Noice – Music Made With Voices (Orenda, 2016) ***½
Burning Ghosts – Burning Ghosts (Orenda, 2016) ****
Olie Brice / Achim Kaufmann – Of Tides (Babel Label, 2017) *****
Kim Myhr / Lasse Marhaug – On the Silver Globe (Sofa Music, 2017) ****½
Sult / Marhaug – Harpoon (Pica Disc/Conard Sound, 2017) ***½
Lasse Marhaug & Ken Vandermark – Close Up (For Abbas Kiarostami) (Audiographic, 2016) ****½
Kristoffer Alberts / Lasse Marhaug ‎– Organistskolen (KBA Records, 2015) ***½
Lasse Marhaug / Kristoffer Berre Alberts – Generasjon Lindemenn (KBA Records, 2016) ****
Okkyung Lee / Lasse Marhaug – Jukebox Series #6 (Trost, 2016) ***

Firehouse 12 Records 10th Anniversary Festival This Weekend in New Haven

Anthony Braxton

Source: Firehouse 12.

On Saturday, April 29, 8:30 & 10pm, the Anthony Braxton Septet (with Braxton on saxophones and contrabass clarinet, THB on brass, Dan Peck on tuba, Adam Matlock on accordion, Tomeka Reid on cello, and Shelley Burgon and Jacqueline Kerrod on harps).

FH12 Records’ inaugural release was Braxton’s epic 9-CD plus DVD box set 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006, and it is an incredible honor to have him headline this 2-day festival with a rare US appearance, performing new compositions of his ZIM Music. (The concert will be recorded for future release as part of yet another epic box set!). Tickets are already sold out for the first set – act fast if you want to be there.

On Sunday, April 30, 8:30 & 10pm, the Firehouse 12 All-Stars (Nate Wooley on trumpet, THB on cornet, Mary Halvorson on guitar, Myra Melford and Carl Maguire on keyboards, John Hébert on bass, and Tomas Fujiwara on drums).

We invited all of the musicians who had recorded for FH12 as leaders, and happily a full ensemble of amazing folks was available to join us on this evening. Compositions by all the artists for various instrumental configurations, a very special one-night only event with some of my favorite performers.

Seattle Scene: April 28 – May 13, 2017

From Seattle’s Wayward Music Series:


Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center

4th Floor, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N, Seattle 98103 (corner N 50th St. in Wallingford)

Every month, Nonsequitur and a community of like-minded presenters and artists offer ten concerts of adventurous music in an informal yet respectful all-ages setting: contemporary classical, free improvisation, the outer limits of jazz, electronic music, microtonal/new instruments, sound art, and other extraordinary sonic experiences.

Eveline Müller: Klang!
Fri. April 28, 8 PM; $5 – $15 at the door

Seattle percussionist Eveline Müller presents the reunion of her Klang Quintet w/ James Drage (laptop/sound manipulations), Stuart McLeod (EEG brain waves), Carl Farrow (electronics/ drums), Brad Hawkins (cello). Opening is her newly assembled Klang Orchestra with a new piece called Song of the Ice Flow, inspired by such and the sounds of ice in general.

Ask the Ages
Sat. April 29, 8 PM; $5 – $15 at the door

Ask the Ages is a Seattle-based avant-jazz band: Greg Campbell (drums and percussion), Steven Bell (Vibraphone ), Brian Heaney (guitar), Kate Olson (sax/woodwinds) and John Seman (bass). Influences are Sonny Sharrock, Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. This is their first gig in over a year. Expect special guests and new music.

FRI. 5/5 – Seattle Composers’ Salon: John Kammerer, Jeremiah Lawson, Patrick O’Keefe, John Teske

SAT. 5/6 – Gift Tapes/DRAFT presents Seth Nehil, RM Francis, Cameron Shafii

FRI. 5/12 – Nonsequitur presents Bay Area composer Zachary James Watson w/ ensemble of Seattle musicians

SAT. 5/13 – Gamelan Pacifica