JazzTimes 10: Essential Jazz Flute Albums

So you say the flute isn't a key jazz instrument? It can still blow your mind.

2. Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble: Black Unstoppable (Delmark, 2007)

Nicole Mitchell’s skill as a flutist is surpassed only by her imagination. The AACM player and composer takes Black Unstoppable as an opportunity (as its title may suggest) to run the gamut of the organization’s “Great Black Music, Ancient to the Future” concept within a single album. The eight-piece (nine, on the tracks where Ugochi Nwaogwugwu sings) burrows its way through funk grooves, freeform breakdowns, breakneck swing (sometimes with a distinct throwback vibe, as on the bubbling “Love Has No Boundaries”), and pan-Africanisms—even Afrobeat on “Life Wants You to Love.” The textures and rhythms are abundant and ever-changing, with Mitchell’s supple flute playing as the cohering agent. She has the ingenious ability to make her instrument sound perfectly at home in and appropriate to each of the multiple contexts it touches throughout this masterpiece.

Check the price of Black Unstoppable on Amazon!

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.