In 2014, Mitchell was commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago to write music inspired by the poetry of Haki Madhbuti. Liberation Narratives, the latest release by composer, flautist and conceptualist Nicole Mitchell, will be released by the notable African-American publisher, Third World Press. The founder and director of Third World Press is named Haiki R. Madhubuti. The album features Madhubuti reading his own poetry spanning his entire career from the 1960s to the present. Known formerly as Don L. Lee, he was a protege of Gwendolyn Brooks, the first African-American poet to receive the Pulitzer Prize.
Mitchell and Madhubuti have a deep connection which spans a number of years, starting when Mitchell first moved to Chicago, and sought employment at Madhubuti's Third World Press. She explains: "When moved to Chicago in 1990, I looked up Third World Press in the phone book and went down to this little storefront off of 75th and Cottage Grove. Here it was — a bookstore, a publishing company and a school all squeezed up in the same building. The vibe was exciting and I immediately asked to meet the owner, Haki Madhubuti. I told him I wanted to work there because I believed in what he was doing — he was making a real difference in the community. He looked at me — I was totally unprofessional and had no degree and no real skills, but he said “OK.” First I started typing manuscripts and eventually I did the graphic design and book layouts. I stayed TWP for thirteen years, at the center of one of Chicago’s cultural institutions, and with great mentorship from Haki. This time was core to my development."
In 2014, Mitchell was commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago to write music inspired by her relationship with Madhubuti which would ultimately form the basis of this album. "Liberation Narratives" was first performed by Mitchell and her Black Earth Ensemble, alongside Madhubuti at La Follette Park in Chicago in April 2014.
Mitchell reconfigured the music at the end of 2016 for this album, which was recorded live at the University of Chicago's Logan Center, two days after the election of Donald Trump. Much of the energy of that moment is captured in the music captured on this album.
This release will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Third World Press. The most famous of his works is Black Men: Single, Obsolete, Dangerous? which sold over 2 million copies. Liberation Narratives is also the name of a book of Madubhuti's collected poetry from the beginning of his career until 2012.
In sum, Mitchell says: "I feel there is an immediate connection between Madhubuti's words and what we are going through today, so I thought it was important to make them assessable to people that my not find his books."
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