Maroon cloud, a powerful eight-part suite by celebrated flutist Nicole Mitchell, is a paean to the human gift of imagination and it's ability to foster resistance in our dystopian times.
It features a drum-less quartet with Mitchell, cellist Tomeka Reid, pianist Aruán Ortiz and vocalist Fay Victor, recorded live at National Sawdust in Brooklyn as part of John Zorn's Stone Commissioning Series (March 29, 2017). In part, maroon cloud refers to the realm of creativity that we can enter simply by closing our eyes - an ability no one can take away from us. "Imagination, especially black imagination, is a really vital and undervalued resource, " the composer states. "It's very clear that we can't continue in the same direction that we've gone, but we need to return to where imagination and creativity come from, because if we don't have another vision then we can't make a different future. What makes us special as human beings is our ability to imagine things that don't even exist yet." Those future-seeking visions, for now, exist in what we might call the "cloud."
"Maroon, " meanwhile, has a number of meanings: it ties into the theme of resistance by referencing the Maroons - those Africans who escaped slavery in the Caribbean and banded with indigenous people to form their own communities as early as the 16th century. Mitchell also cites the alternate meaning of "marooned, " i.e., people being abandoned to their fate. And then there's maroon, the rich dark color we might see with eyes closed, imagining social and political renewal.
Nicole Mitchell, a longtime Chicagoan and professor of music at the University of California-Irvine, recently received a Champion of New Music Award from the American Composers Forum. She has been hailed for her "Afrofuturist vision" and credited as "the most inventive flutist in the past 30 years of jazz" by The New York Times. Her varied projects and leadership as the first woman to chair the AACM have widened the scope of improvised music
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