black summit

Nicole Mitchell - Egoes War from Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds

The innovative, boundary-smashing work of Nicole Mitchell, whom Chicago Reader music critic Peter Margasak has hailed as the “greatest living flutist in jazz”, has contributed new life to Afrofuturism in the 21st Century. A voracious reader of science fiction since her youth (Afrofuturist author Octavia E. Butler in particular has exerted a heavy influence on her music), the musician, composer and educator has released a string of albums that fold themes centered around technology, spirituality, race and gender into profoundly exploratory jazz that oftentimes reaches far beyond the genre in which it is rooted. Her vast sound can and often does encompass contemporary classical, globally oriented fusion, gospel, spoken word, funk-inspired groove research and even brittle shards of avant-rock.

On Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE Records; May 5), her second and latest full-length for the Chicago-based FPE Records, she uses science fiction to pose the question, “What would a world look like that is truly egalitarian, with advanced technology that is in tune with nature?”

Recorded in May of 2015 at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, it features a new version of her Black Earth Ensemble. In addition to longtime collaborators Renée Baker (violin), Tomeka Reid (cello, banjo), Alex Wing (electric guitar, oud) and Jovia Armstrong (percussion), Mitchell brings in Tatsu Aoki (bass, shamisen, taiko) and Kojiro Umezaki (shakuhachi). Also in the mix is Chicago artist, scholar and poet avery r young, who brings the composer’s lyrics to life with visceral humanity.


black sea summit by vore_kul_om


We’ve all heard the old adage that every snowflake is different, but they do have one thing in common: They’re all white. That’s also the image that many have of the people taking part in winter sports, including skiing and snowboarding, here in the U.S.

There are efforts underway to change that. Every other year, the National Brotherhood of Skiers — or NBS — organizes an event known as the Black Summit or Black Ski Summit. It brings thousands of African-Americans to the slopes in big-name resort towns like Big Sky, Mont.; Lake Tahoe, Calif.; and, of course, Aspen, Colo.

More than 40 years later, Aspen now welcomes the National Brotherhood of Skiers with open arms — in no small part because the group spends a fair amount of tourist dollars. (Legend has it they bought every mink coat in Vail, Colo., at a summit in 1997).

They’re also a fun bunch to have around. At the summit’s opening ceremonies this year, bass booms from giant speakers as hundreds of black skiers gather to dance — they do the wobble and the cha-cha slide — and catch up.

Most wear brightly colored jackets representing their local clubs: Avalanche Ski Club from Alabama, Black Ski Club from Washington, D.C., All Seasons Ski Club out of Oakland and the Sunshine Slopers from Miami. More than 50 regional clubs, including Nubian Ski from London, are represented.

Art Clay and Ben Finley move through the crowd, greeting old friends. They’ve come to nearly every summit since they organized that first one 42 years ago. Finley’s arm is in a sling — an accident at Mammoth Mountain in California will keep the 76-year-old off skis at this year’s event.

At 78, Clay will take a few runs, sporting his traditional black bowler hat and long black duster. A hip replacement means no “black diamonds” — the advanced slopes — but nothing can stop him from having a good time on the easier green and blue routes, he says.

It’s not just about skiing and parties for the NBS. After the first gathering in Aspen, the group’s leaders decided it should be more than a social event. So they adopted two central missions: to introduce African-Americans to winter sports and find and fund talented young black athletes with the potential to make it all the way to the U.S. Olympic Ski Team.

Read the full article and listen here.