Nicole Mitchell Awakening

AACM president Nicole Mitchell has been widely celebrated as one of the foremost flautists of current-day jazz, but sometimes her recordings are so jam-packed full of musicians that it's hard to hear her instrument. Not here. Awakening features a lean quartet where she's the only aerophone ― all the better to display the full range of her capabilities. Sparring with her is frequent collaborator Jeff Parker, who vacillates between being a lead and accompanying instrument, often several times within the same song. With other frequent associates (bassist Harrison Bankheand and drummer Avreeayl Ra) providing a muscular rhythm section, Mitchell unleashes some avant flute funk on "Journey on a Thread" and "Center of the Earth," which would blow Herbie Mann away at 20 paces. She trills, sings through the flute and breaks out a range of other extended techniques to soar over then stab at these rhythms. The sense of space on this disc is unlike anything else in Mitchell's catalogue, save Frequency, which coincidentally features both Ra and Bankhead. Still, Parker's utility and wide range of electronic contributions elevate this album beyond that project. (Delmark)