Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chicago Mike Reed's "About Us"

Artist: Mike Reed’s People, Places & Things

CD: About Us ( 482 Music-1068)

Musicians: Mike Reed (drums); Greg Ward (alto saxophone); Tim Haldeman (tenor saxophone); Jason Roebke (bass); David Boykin (Tenor on track 4); Jeb Bishop (trombone on track 6); Jeff Parker(guitar on track 10).

Recorded: Recorded Feb –March 2009 Chicago, IL

Being from New York I am not familiar with the Chicago jazz scene, so it was with some interest that I put on my headphones to listen to the new Mike Reed offering “About Us”. Reed’s latest effort finds him joined by fellow People, Places & Things members Greg Ward on Alto, Tim Haldeman on tenor and Jason Roebke on bass. Together with guests tenor saxophonist David Boykin, trombonist Jeb Bishop and guitarist Jeff Parker, they play what Reed describes as a sampling of what is the best of the current developments in Chicago improvised music.

Much of the music borders on free jazz and is influenced by Ornette Coleman and his piano-less groups. While well played and competently arranged there was only a few times I found myself checking out the title of the tunes.

“VS #1”, a Ward composition offered a walking bass line with a jaunty dual saxophone intro that starts like the theme to a detective story. Ward is given room to improvise over Reed and Roebke’s bouncing rhythm. About three and half minutes into the music the rhythm section drops out and allows Ward the chance to solo in a probing and introspective way. He eventually builds full circle, returning to the song’s intro line. “Big and Fine” is a fun Boykin composition. The composer plays tenor in a burlesque inspired style that is quite raucous and a departure from most of the material on the album.

The Reed composition “The Next Time You Are Near” is a languishing ballad that makes great use of the precise synchronized playing by saxophonists Ward and Haldeman. These guys have undoubtedly played together for some time. Their breathy, tonally husky treatment of the repeating melody line implies pathos. Ward’s playing is particularly moving. Reed’s padded drumbeats are perfectly muted. He saunters at a leisurely pace providing the background for the two saxophonists to weave their sounds in some of the best interplay on the album.

Guitarist Jeff Parker offers a composition that has a catchy melody line. Reed and especially Roebke seem to enjoy playing to this upbeat, in-the-pocket style tune. Solos by Parker and Ward give this song vitality, with Ward playing some nice changes ranging from hushed tones to controlled flurries. Reed, for his part, deftly moves from subtle to in your face as the song demands.

Track listing: It’s Enough; VS#1; About Us; Big & Fine; The Next Time You Are Near; Big Stubby; Flat Companion; First Reading : Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians; Under the Influence of lunar Objects; Days Fly By. Highlighted tracks are favorites.

1 comment:

  1. Strongly disagree with this lukewarm review. I just heard this album and the playing is nothing but first rate with stellar improvisation especially by Ward who is incredible.