New Music by Nicole Mitchell, Kaveh Rastegar, Steve Coleman and Dave Douglas, in Take Five
Nicole Mitchell, "No One Can Stop Us"
New music and ideas almost seem to pour out of Nicole Mitchell, a flutist and composer of expansive vision and meticulous execution. She's at The Stone this week, Tuesday through Saturday, and will perform in a range of situations — from duo to quartet to the seven-piece ensemble featured on her Xenogenesis Suite.
Last spring Mitchell unveiled another suite, Maroon Cloud, as part of John Zorn's Stone commissioning series at National Sawdust. The title refers in part to the legacy of maroons, rebel slaves who broke away and established their own enclaves in the 16th century. But Mitchell's focus isn't historical struggle so much as the power of radical imagination.
Her partners on the concert, which was recorded for an album that arrives this Friday on FPE Records, are cellist Tomeka Reid, pianist Aruán Ortiz and vocalist Fay Victor. They work in a chamber-like but urgent communion, pushing toward a higher plane. On "No One Can Stop Us," which premieres here, the title phrase assumes joyous properties: it's a vow, but also a celebration.
Steve Coleman and Five Elements, "Nfr"
Alto saxophonist and composer Steve Coleman has formative history at the Village Vanguard, where he played regularly at the start of his New York career, in the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. But it took a while for Coleman to make his debut as a leader at the club, in 2015. He has become a fixture there since, and it was only a matter of time before the arrival of a document like Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1: The Embedded Sets, which Pi Recordings will release on Friday.
If that description sounds routine, don't be fooled: this is hardly just a walk in the park for Coleman and his working band, Five Elements, which dealt with a substantial amount of new music on the gig. The rhythm section consists of drummer Sean Rickman and bassist Anthony Tidd; the frontline includes trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson. And in the thick of it all (playing what turned out to be his final gig as a member of the band) is guitarist Miles Okazaki. Listen for the spark in a tune called "Nfr," which incorporates an M-Base funk groove and a boppish horn line, with transfixing solos by Coleman, Finlayson and Okazaki. Listen, too, for the bounding elaboration that brings the tune to a sharp, decisive halt.
Kaveh Rastegar (Featuring Nicholas Payton), "Long March"
Jazz observers know Kaveh Rastegar as the bassist in Kneebody, a band that confounds classification at every turn. Light of Love, his debut album as a leader, widens the frame even further: it's a reflection of his considerable profile in pop and R&B, working with the likes of John Legend and Sia. The album, out on Ropeadope on Friday, is a showcase for Rastegar's songwriting, and a feast of collaborative synergies: among its special guests are singer-songwriters Gaby Moreno, Becca Stevens and Mike Viola. On drums is Chris Dave; on keyboards is Brandon Coleman.
A track called "Long March" finds Nicholas Payton in the spotlight, shaping a hook and setting a tone. The beat is indeed march-like, but with a bounce in its step. It's both triumphal and sly, which feels true to form.
Houston Person and Ron Carter, "Blues For D.P."
Tenor saxophonist Houston Person and bassist Ron Carter have a lot of miles on the odometer, and as a duo they've already proven their chemistry, on a 2016 album by that very name. Their follow-up, Remember Love, was recently released on HighNote Records, with a stated emphasis on standards with a romantic air.
Carter's "Blues for D.P." is an outlier in a certain respect; it's not a love song so much as a song of tribute. The initials in the title are for pianist and composer-arranger Duke Pearson, and the tune first made its appearance on an album by Grover Washington, Jr. In this version, Person murmurs and purrs the melody, over Carter's moseying bass line. Their deceptively casual interplay is suffused with blues feeling, in a way we don't hear as often as we used to.
Dave Douglas, "Sharing a Small Planet"
At the beginning of this year, Dave Douglas began releasing a series of tracks from a special-edition album called UPLIFT: Twelve Pieces for Positive Action in 2018. The project, available only by subscription through Greenleaf Music, puts the trumpeter in excellent company: saxophonist Joe Lovano, guitarists Mary Halvorson and Julian Lage, bassist Bill Laswell and drummer and percussionist Ian Chang. Last week, Douglas and his label posted a free alternate take of "Sharing a Small Planet."
With a heraldic horn line over a pummeling drone, it's one answer to a question few have thought to ask: What would it sound like if Dave Douglas decided to make a surf-punk tune? Lage and Halvorson work in a gnarly tandem here, and Laswell brings deep gravity to his role. Along the way, Lovano delivers a smartly garrulous solo, and Douglas brings the fire. This is a song about the conservation of our natural resources, and there's no question that its urgency is a reflection of activist umbrage. On his website, Douglas notes that this month he and Greenleaf will be supporting the Peace Corps. "We need to educate ourselves so we can coexist on this planet," he writes. "No single nation can 'go it alone.'"