Tyler Mitchell rejoining forces with Arkestra stalwart Marshall Allen for a set of succinct rippers is exactly what the world needs in 2022. Mitchell and Allen go back decades and, after some years stomping down their own paths and exploring different vistas, when Mitchell came back in the Arkestra in the early ‘10s, the cosmic magic reignited. Now, years later they come together in this sextet to conjure some new spirits with Dancing Shadows.
On the title track, one of many Sun Ra tunes on the album, a frenetic energy twists and turns, dodging obstacles and splashing lightning across the tightly-woven grooves laid down by Mitchell’s powerhouse bass plexus and the soaring percussion/drums duo of Wayne Smith and Elson Nascimento. Compared to the larger Arkestra, this pared-down ensemble gives new spaces for Sun Ra’s pieces to conquer. Nicoletta Manzini (alto) and Chris Hemmingway (tenor) get into lightspeed hypno-duels, spinning melodic runs into fine threads. Everything feels tight and clean, so much so that when Allen starts wailing, his visceral improvisations tear at the piece’s staunch fabric, infecting everyone with enchanting freedom. By the end of “Dancing Shadows,” the whole sextet is airborne, spewing catharsis into every direction.
Dancing Shadows is out January 28 via Mahakala and can be pre-ordered below.