3–4 May 2020
The great composer and bass player, Neil Charles brings his new project to OTO, inspired by writer James Baldwin’s searing essays and delivering a dramatic and engaging take on contemporary black music. Featuring USA flautist Nicole Mitchell and vocalist Tara Middleton from the Sun Ra Arkestra, experimental vocalist and movement artist Elaine Mitchener, drummer Mark Sanders, pianist Pat Thomas and Charles himself, this should be an unmissable couple of nights.
Neil Charles is a bassist, electronic producer and composer. He regularly performs, records and tours with numerous jazz, classical and contemporary music bands and ensembles like alex Hawkins, mingus big band, has played with Terence Blanchard, black top and is a member of the electro-acoustic jazz trio, Zed-U.
Nicole Mitchell is a creative flutist, composer, bandleader and educator. As the founder of Black Earth Ensemble, Black Earth Strings, Ice Crystal and Sonic Projections, Mitchell has been repeatedly awarded by DownBeat Critics Poll and the Jazz Journalists Association as “Top Flutist of the Year” for the last four years (2010-2014). Mitchell’s music celebrates African American culture while reaching across genres and integrating new ideas with moments in the legacy of jazz, gospel, experimentalism, pop and African percussion through albums such asBlack Unstoppable (Delmark, 2007), Awakening (Delmark, 2011), and Xenogenesis Suite: A Tribute to Octavia Butler (Firehouse 12, 2008), which received commissioning support from Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works.
Mitchell formerly served as the first woman president of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and has been a member since 1995. In recognition of her impact within the Chicago music and arts education communities, she was named “Chicagoan of the Year” in 2006 by the Chicago Tribune. With her ensembles, as a featured flutist and composer, Mitchell has been a highlight at festivals and art venues throughout Europe, the U.S. and Canada.
Ms. Mitchell is a recipient of the prestigious Alpert Award in the Arts (2011) and has been commissioned by Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Ravinia Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Chicago Sinfonietta Orchestra and Maggio Fiorentino Chamber Orchestra (Florence, Italy). In 2009, she created Honoring Grace: Michelle Obama for the Jazz Institute of Chicago. She has been a faculty member at the Vancouver Creative Music Institute, the Sherwood Flute Institute, Banff International Jazz Workshop and the University of Illinois, Chicago. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio, and in magazines including Ebony, Downbeat, JazzIz, Jazz Times, Jazz Wise, andAmerican Legacy.
Mark has worked with a host of renowned musicians including Derek Bailey, Henry Grimes, Mathew Shipp, Evan Parker, Roswell Rudd, in duo and quartets with Wadada Leo Smith and trios with Charles Gayle with Sirone and William Parker.
In situations using composition Mark works in a number of projects including Christian Marclay’s Everyday for film and live music and John Butcher’s Tarab Cuts - both projects have performed major festivals throughout Europe and Brazil. He has performed works by guitarist John Coxon in Glasgow and Sydney playing with the Scottish and Sydney Symphony Orchestras. With New York’s ICE Ensemble he has performed John Zorn’s The Tempest in London and at Huddersfield New Music Festival.
Mark also works in the groups of Paul Dunmall including Deep Whole Trio with Paul Rogers, and the ensembles of Sarah Gail Brand, including a long-standing duo. He has a lengthy discography including a solo album, has performed internationally and played at major festivals including, Nickelsdorf, Ulrichsburg, Womad and notably at Glastonbury with legendary saxophonist John Tchicai.
"ubiquitous, diverse and constantly creative, drummer Mark Sanders always outdoes himself, whether playing with restraint or erupting like a dynamo." Bruce L Gallenter, Downtown Music Gallery. NY
Pat Thomas studied classical piano from aged 8 and started playing Jazz from the age of 16. He has since gone on to develop an utterly unique style - embracing improvisation, jazz and new music. He has played with Derek Bailey in Company Week (1990/91) and in the trio AND (with Noble) – with Tony Oxley’s Quartet and Celebration Orchestra and in Duo with Lol Coxhill.
"Sartorially shabby as Thomas may be, and on first impression even rather stolid, he has a somewhat imperious charisma that’s immediately amplified when he starts to play. Unlike other pianists whose virtuosity seems to be racing ahead of their thought processes Thomas always seems supremely in command of his gift, and his playing, no matter how free and ready to tangle with abstraction, always carries a charge of authoritative exactitude." - The Jazzmann
Tara Middleton is a vocalist and violinist whose expressive styling and enchanting stage presence have captivated audiences around the world. See Tara in action once and you'll never forget her. Tara began her music career studying violin at the age of five. She furthered her violin studies with Booker Rowe of the Philadelphia Orchestra. At the age of nine Tara began taking vocal lessons and soon found herself holding the microphone as a lead vocalist.
During her college years she was invited to personal tutorships with professionally acclaimed musicians such as the late jazz pianist Gerald Price, Philadelphia composer Dr. George Allen ,and Jazz Vocalist Patty Wackenhut, with whom she has studied voice, violin, flute jazz and performance. Tara co-founded The Foundations Singers with vocalist Janet McDonald — an African-oriented A Capella trio that garnered wide acclaim thru-out the tri-state folk music community. In 2007, with 100% fan funding, they recorded the CD Foundation Rocks, with guest percussionist William “Duke” Wilson. The CD’s first pressings immediately sold-out at their public performances.
She has worked as the featured vocalist for the ensemble JazGuardian since 1995; and also performed and recorded with the Afro-Cuban/Caribbean ensemble LaTumba, led by percussionist Robert “Rogi” Kenyatta. Tara has also recorded with Sonic Liberation Front, an African-Rhythmic avant-garde ensemble led by percussionist Kevin Diehl. Tara has recently recorded with BBC radio in 2014 and is featured on the 2015 newly released Sun Ra Arkestra international cd ”Babylon LIVE”.Æ – All About Jazz
Elaine Mitchener is a contemporary vocalist, movement artist and composer working between the worlds of contemporary new music, experimental jazz / free improvisation and visual arts. She is founder of collective electroacoustic trio The Rolling Calf (with Jason Yarde and Neil Charles) and her sound works are held in a curated collection by George E Lewis at Darmstadt Festival. Recent recordings includes Some Good News – a live album with Hamid Drake, William Parker, Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas (OTOROKU label) – and a special radio commission for Sons d’Hiver (Paris), and she is one of 50 selected exhibiting artists featured in the British Art Show 9 touring exhibition 21/22 and is a Wigmore Hall Associate Artist.
"Any attempts at categorisation are doomed to fail" – The Wire
"Mitchener is a genre crossing virtuoso" – Financial Times