1. Curly Top
2. Journey on a Thread
3. Center of the Earth
6. More Than I Can Say
8. F. O. C.
Nicole Mitchell - Flute
Jeff Parker - Guitar
Harrison Bankhead - Bass
Avreeayl Ra - Drums
On the previous Nicole Mitchell CD
I reviewed here, she was leading the Black Earth Ensemble, a nine-piece group. On this new album, she plays with a quartet, of which she says "I tried to put the flute more out front than usual". She adds: "I wanted to dig back into the old-school jazz bit and yet still make room to branch out into never-never land".
She succeeds completely in this aim, mixing straightforward jazz with ventures out towards the avant-garde, as she did in that earlier album. And the smaller group allows us to hear more of her superb flute-playing, which won her last year's Down Beat accolade of Rising Star as well as Top Flautist.
At times her adventurous spirit leads her to wander around apparently aimlessly - as happens in the very first track, Curly Top, although guitarist Jeff Parker eventually seems to be improvising on a theme. The guitar blends seamlessly with the flute - especially in There, where the players seem to work with considerable empathy.
Nicole wrote all the compositions herself, except for Jeff Parker's F. O. C., which is a pleasantly melodic piece. I can't say I like Center of the Earth because its foundation is a bass riff which soon becomes tiresome. But there is compensation in tracks like Momentum, which has a jaunty forward-moving mood. Some of the other tunes are difficult to grasp, as they are originals without obvious melodies, but one feels they are worth staying with because they contain so much to explore.
Nicole's use of the flute is very different from what we became accustomed to in the fifties and sixties, when flautists like Herbie Mann played the instrument in a mellow, accessible way which proved very popular. Nicole, on the other hand, has extended the capabilities of the flute, making it an interestingly experimental instrument.