Thursday, October 8, 2020

Nicole Mitchell and Haki Madhubuti "Liberation Narratives"

(Black Earth Music, 2017) I do not want to dishonor in any way the brilliant elders/ancestors who laid down the music during the Black Arts Movement for Last Poets and Watts Prophets and Leroi and Nikki and so many other greats to speak truth upon. But having the lionhearted, uncensored, devastating, poignant, penetrating poetry of Mr. Madhubuti paired with an ensemble led by the certified genius Nicole Mitchell feels like a genuine musical move forward rather than a revival or look back. The poet's pronouncements about the state of the world, and frequently about the South Side of Chicago where this was recorded (and where his mentor Gwendolyn Brooks lived and reflected upon), jar listeners while also offering a calm clarity about the devastating effects of white supremacy (while offering more hopeful words about the black women and young people and men he truly appreciates). These words should not be able to get better, but they are elevated here by the magnificent music. Mitchell's collaborators are so powerful (all of them, but Tomeka Reid's cello, Pharez Whitted's trumpet, and the vocals of Ugochi cut through for me) and her instincts and ideas are so rich that the fearless flautist has enabled work here to happen that I hope can get us a step higher up as we try to climb out of this abyss.

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