Mitchellet_livemontreal_span3
July/August 2007

Nicole Mitchell/Harrison Bankhead/Hamid Drake
Indigo Trio: Live in Montreal

Flutist Nicole Mitchell, bassist Harrison Bankhead and percussionist Hamid Drake are longtime collaborators. But until June 13, 2005, when they appeared at the Suoni per il Popolo Festival in Montreal, these three Chicagoans had never performed publicly as a trio.

You’d never know it. The first three pieces—“Welcoming,” “Thankfulness,” and “Afrika Rising”—flow together as a suite, and the ideas among the participants meld just as smoothly. After an extended bowed solo from Bankhead, Mitchell floats in, summoning strong echoes both Middle Eastern and Celtic. Drake’s contributions are propulsive, textured and tuneful—few percussionists so consistently approach even a standard trap set as a melodic and a rhythmic instrument. Among the most thrilling moments, though, are those passages where time is suspended and Mitchell or Bankhead stretches an extended phrase over a valley of silence or, sometimes, a pointillistic outpouring from Drake that ripples like windswept water.

“Forest Light” features Mitchell on wood flute; Drake’s multilayered hand-drum patterns seem to invoke the ambient sounds of a village or a forest clearing as much as the work of a willful percussionist. “Velvet Lounge Bounce,” a tribute to Chicago’s treasured free-jazz venue, is built around a lurching, roomy rhythmic pattern not unlike what Drake and Bankhead might unfurl at the Velvet with saxist/owner Fred Anderson at the helm.

Summoning her most brawny tone, Mitchell consistently summons fresh harmonic and rhythmic ideas and then draws even newer ones from what she’s just discovered, creating concentric, ring-shout-like swirls. On “Stand Strong,” as earlier in “Afrika,” her satin-sheathed-in-steel tone, tempered by her affirming sense of playfulness, invokes revolutionary fervor along with sparkling joy. Ideas are presented, blown into pieces, and then re-assembled in new and unexpected forms—embodying perfectly the dual themes of creative destruction and renewal that permeate these compositions and this performance.

Originally published in July/August 2007
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