Stories and Negotiations is the final chapter in Chicago-based drummer Mike Reed's People, Places & Things trilogy. Debuting with 2008's Proliferation (482 Music), Reed founded this piano-less quartet to investigate an often overlooked period of Chicago's jazz historythe mid-1950s to early 1960swhen the city's after-hours jam session culture flirted with avant-garde collectivism, eventually giving birth to the AACM.
The quartet, whose members include ubiquitous bassist Jason Roebke and the fulsome alto/tenor duo of Greg Ward and Tim Haldeman, was joined by trombonist Jeb Bishop, tenor saxophonist David Boykin, and guitarist Jeff Parker on their sophomore effort, About Us (482 Music, 2009). Bolstered by the adventurous contributions of their peers, Reed and company established a conceptual through-line that incorporated contemporary concepts with time-honored conventions, skillfully balancing inside and outside traditions. Stories and Negotiations brings the concept full circle, uniting Reed's quartet (and Bishop) with three of the Windy City's elder statesmentrumpeter Art Hoyle and trombonist Adi Braun (former members of Sun Ra's Arkestra), and veteran multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan (on tenor).
Recorded live at Chicago's Millennium Park in 2008, this concert recording features a mix of venerable covers and original dedications, demonstrating the expansiveness of the jazz tradition. From the exotic swagger of Sun Ra's "El is a Sound of Joy" to the blazing bop of Clifford Jordan's "Lost and Found," Reed's augmented unit explores a handful of obscure vintage tunes that swing with a straightforwardness unheard on his previous albums. Avoiding mere nostalgia, the set includes three originals written "in the tradition," with one song devoted to each guest artist.
Reed's new arrangements and subtle rewrites of the set's classic repertoire pieces infuse these venerable 32-bar AABA standards with newfound vitality. The octet's lack of a chordal instrument aligns them with modernist innovations, exuding an almost Ornette Coleman-ish air on the aleatoric intros of "Song of a Star" and "Urnack." The horn heavy octet's rousing contrapuntal polyphony also shares a passing similarity to Charles Mingus' seminal bands of the late 1950s, most notably on "El is a Sound of Joy."
Sidestepping the spotlight, Reed and Roebke's in-the-pocket approach provides unswerving support for the horns, and while Ward and Haldeman make outstanding contributions, it is Hoyle, Priester, and Sullivan that garner the most attention. Whether it's Sullivan's sinuous statements on "Urnack," his pithy tenor battle with Haldeman on "Lost and Found," Priester's soaring ethereal tones, or Hoyle's mercurial quotations, the veterans' congenial interplay with their younger counterparts exemplifies the timelessness of the jazz continuum.
Reed's background as a festival promoter and Vice Chairperson of the AACM lends a comprehensive authoritativeness to this date. His imaginative choice of multi-generational personnel to perform a unique program of under-sung material is a prime example of his organizational gifts. Stories and Negotiations is a vibrant celebration of jazz history and a fitting conclusion to Reed's exploration of Chicago's fertile Post-War years.
Personnel: Mike Reed: drums; Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Tim Haldeman: tenor saxophone; Ira Sullivan: tenor saxophone; Art Hoyle: trumpet and flugelhorn; Jeb Bishop: trombone; Julian Priester: trombone; Jason Roebke: bass.