Nicole Mitchell/Black Earth Ensemble: Afrika Rising
The very much anticipated follow-up to Vision Quest does not disappoint and shows growth and maturity with, this time, a focus on orchestration. She succeeds in shaping a full-bodied and luxuriant sound. In the process, the Black Earth Ensemble seems larger than its actual size.
The recording involves more musicians that its predecessor, which opens up possibilities for Mitchell. The previous cast is back, but she adds colors with a larger range of instruments that includes, among others, a saxophone (David Boykin), trombones (Steve Berry and Tony Hererra), a trumpet (Corey Wilkes) or a piano (Miles Tate III, Wanda Bishop or Jim Baker).
While Mitchell acknowledges her influences—the music at times is reminiscent of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus or Sun Ra—she is incorporating what she inherited from them to develop her own vision instead of just paying tribute. This time she also delves into other forms blending elements of gospel—“Goldmind”—or reggae as on “Peaceful Village Town,” a piece that betrays her fondness for a nicely carved groove. Both pieces also give us a chance to hear her singing.
More importantly, Afrika Rising carries a sense of hopefulness, optimism and triumph that pervades throughout the entire program. Uplifting music of this caliber should win a lot of listeners over.
Available on Dreamtime Records.