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Nicole Mitchell and the Black Earth Ensemble: Hope, Future, and Destiny

2005 is the 40th anniversary of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and one of the most recent highlights of their output comes from vice chairperson and flutist Nicole Mitchell. Her third recording, Hope Future and Destiny, is a fascinating sprawl full of classic musical references and Afrocentric concerns. As on the flutist’s two previous recordings, Vision Quest and Afrika Rising, her compositions are densely layered, but this work was the musical score for a multimedia and theatrical presentation, seen in a brief snippet on the CD-ROM portion of the disc.

Black Earth Ensemble is reminiscent of the larger Mingus ensembles, Fela Kuti’s Egypt 80 and 8 Bold Souls, the octet led by fellow AACM-er Ed Wilkerson. The band features several of Chicago’s leading young musicians, such as reedman David Boykin, violinist Savoir Faire and trombonist Tony Hererra, but Mitchell’s flute playing is the highlight of the recording. Her sound builds on the innovations of Eric Dolphy and James Newton. Mitchell’s ambitious, quality music puts her firmly within the hallowed AACM tradition.

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