Nicole Mitchell Afrika Rising

Afrika Rising builds on Mitchell's successful debut, Vision Quest, a year ago and is forward-thinking jazz that swings like crazy. Mitchell furthers African rhythms as a compositional strategy with her music at a time when so much music coming out of Chicago is either freely improvised or bolstered by electronic elements. Not that this album stands in complete contrast to these other modes of music making, it just further enriches the vitality of the Chicago scene. "The Afrika Rising Trilogy" gives a 22-minute blast of strings, hand drums, horns and, above all, the leader's flute through insanely catchy riffs; Hamid Drake has never sounded funkier than on this suite, (check out "Metamorphosis!") and that's really saying something considering the man's recorded output. Elsewhere, even the reggae jazz (cringe!) of "Peaceful Village Town" is well executed, with a touch of dub. The arrangements have big and bold harmonies produced by a large ensemble of more than ten people - David Boykin is featured throughout and is great on tenor and clarinet. Some jazz fans may equate her sound with that of Randy Weston, or David Murray's African montages, but there's more contemporary soloing, dissonant harmonies, quirky arrangements ("Bluerise" features some great 'bone by Tony Herrera), and Mitchell's accomplished flute work and vocalisations to set Afrika Rising apart. (Dreamtime)