Nicole Mitchell Interviewed

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

Nicole Mitchell is one of contemporary jazz’s great talents on the flute—but she doesn’t just deal in riffs. She’s also a conceptualist. Her latest record, Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds is influenced by social science, sci-fi, and speculative trends in fiction. Throughout the record’s hour-long running time, Mitchell draws on anthropologist Riane Eisler’s distinction between cooperative societies and hegemonic ones, and asks the question: Could the best elements of each tradition be joined somehow?

It’s a question that reflects some of the political tensions of the present moment. Mitchell’s spoken word lyrics, voiced by poet avery r. young, reference Black Lives Matter as well as post-earthquake conditions in Nepal. For this record, bandleader Mitchell has drawn instrumentalists into her orbit to support this wide-ranging, philosophical form of musical inquiry. She leads an ensemble that includes an electric guitarist, bassist, violinist, and percussionist. For good measure, Mitchell also employs a cellist (who doubles on banjo) and a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble who plays the shakuhachi (a vintage Japanese flute).

This vibrant ensemble sometimes coalesces around elements of noise-rock propulsion, or else progressive funk—often in the same track. No matter the sonic touchstones, the group’s performances on the record create a sweeping sense of drama. Mitchell’s own contributions include the flute, full of lilting, fast-moving lines, positioning her in a lineage that includes past greats like Rahsaan Roland Kirk. And because Mitchell is eager to find a future that can balance technology with the analog, she also steers electronic effects within the ensemble.