Nicole Mitchell's Ice Crystal Member Picks Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Fri., May 31, 9 p.m. 2013

When flutist and composer Nicole Mitchell moved to Los Angeles a couple of years ago to take a plum teaching job at UC Irvine, it was a serious blow to the local jazz community—not only because Chicagoans could no longer regularly hear her play, but also because she’d been such an important source of support and energy, mentoring young players and working with an ever-widening circle of musicians that intersected several different schools of stylistic thought. But Mitchell has hardly turned her back on the city where she made her name; in fact, judging from her recent discography you’d never know she left town. This weekend she’s back to celebrate the release of Aquarius (Delmark), the superb debut from her Ice Crystal quartet, which includes three Chicagoans: vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Joshua Abrams, and drummer Frank Rosaly. This group is one of the contexts that allows Mitchell’s improvisational depth to take center stage—much of her other work lately has revolved around ambitious programmatic suites devoted to women such as Alice Coltrane, Octavia Butler, and Michelle Obama, and the stunningly virtuosic solo recital on the new Engraved in the Wind (Rogue Art) can show off her spontaneity but not her sensitivity to other players. She’s worked with Adasiewicz before Aquarius, but this is the first time they’ve evoked the translucent, sparkling timbres Bobby Hutcherson created with flutists such as Eric Dolphy (on the 1964 album Out to Lunch) and Sam Rivers (on the 1965 album Dialogue); that said, Adasiewicz’s thick harmonies and forceful percussiveness and Mitchell’s fleet fluidity and tonal purity are entirely their own. Rosaly and Abrams play with muscularity and grace, alternately cushioning and prodding, and they keep strong time even as they dice it up. Mitchell also performs Saturday with her long-running Black Earth Strings—a quartet with Abrams, cellist Tomeka Reid, and violinist Renee Baker—as part of the closing concert of the Chicago Jazz String Summit. That show is at the Logan Center on the campus of the University of Chicago. —Peter Margasak

Price: $12

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