Indigo Trio: Nicole Mitchell, Harrison Bankhead, Hamid Drake with Michel Edelin: The Ethiopian Princess Meets the Tantric Priest

Flutist Nicole Mitchell’s Indigo Trio has captured the joy and reverence befitting the pursuit of Divine Consciousness as is practiced in the Tantric tradition in its album, The Ethiopian Princess Meets the Tantric Priest. Mitchell’s compositions are translated to sound by her trio which includes bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Hamid Drake. Flutist Michel Edelin joins the group. The title tune is a creation of all four musicians.

Not once is the music on this recording dour or bluesy; rather it is tenaciously upbeat, rhythmic and inspires quiet contemplation as well. Always on top of the melody, Mitchell unfolds her technical prowess. Her flute line is often literally echoed by Edelin’s to form coherent high and low pitch synchronizations. Drake and Bankhead add nothing but sparkle and depth to Mitchell’s every flutter, slur or clear ringing instrumental tone; vocalized bird-like tweets; and distinct precise notes bitten off with the certainty that accompanies the mastery which Mitchell has achieved with her piccolo and flutes. Ethiopian Princess is reminiscent of a Coltrane quartet recording, where the ‘rhythm section’ works like crazy to keep up with the lead instrument.

Drake has never been more adept at contributing to the instrumental conversation. His drumming is squarely on board with everything that is happening. It is quite remarkable that he can follow one course concurrently using different colors within his own drumming arena and land exactly where he needs to land at the appropriate moment in relation to the other instruments.

Bankhead’s performance is particularly stunning. He demonstrates his strong, unswerving individual artistry without ever taking over the group’s integrity, especially in Mitchell’s compositions “Windcurrent” and “Ambre Sunset.” His own “Return of the Sun,” in which he plays piano, concludes the album with an exceptionally sobering, slightly melancholic, warm melodic elegance.