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Tomeka Reid Quartet: 3+3

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Tomeka Reid Quartet: 3+3
Jazz cello has come a long way since Fred Katz's pioneering work with Chico Hamilton in the 1950s. Back then, the instrument was looked on as a novelty turn. In 2024, while still relatively avant-garde, its presence in a lineup is less exceptional. A pivotal point was American cellist Adbul Wadud's By Myself (Bishara, 1977), an album Tomeka Reid has acknowledged as an inspiration, and which may have played a part in her transition from classical music to jazz around the start of the 2000s. Off catalogue (though online) for decades, By Myself was reissued for the first time in 2023. Reid's enthusiasm for the album is shared by British drummer Tom Skinner (Sons Of Kemet, The Smile), whose Voices Of Bishara (International Anthem, 2022) was directly inspired by Wadud and featured cellist Kareem Dayes.

Reid has played a major role in the cello's rise as a member of bands led by, among others, Nicole Mitchell (ten albums since 2002), Taylor Ho Bynum, Anthony Braxton, Makaya McCraven and Jaimie Branch (Reid was the founding cellist in Branch's Fly Or Die Quartet, appearing on the band's 2017 debut). Since 2015, Reid has also been an increasingly high-profile presence as leader of her Quartet with Mary Halvorson on guitar, Jason Roebke on bass and Tomas Fujiwara on drums, a lineup unchanged since the group's formation.

Which brings us to 3+3....

Sometimes one has to genuflect in simple awe at a piece of music, or soar heavenwards on its wings, or run amok raving about it. Or do all those things. Whatever seems appropriate. Such is the case with 3+3, which is as transportingly good as jazz gets.

The band's sonic canvas is unchanged—free improv, elemental groove, sublime melodies, controlled turbulence. Two things about the album are new. First, Reid has moved from short to long-form composition; there are just three tracks on the forty-minute disc, rather than the ten on Tomeka Reid Quartet (Thirsty Ear, 2015) and the nine on Old New (Cuneiform, 2019). Second, while Reid remains at heart an acoustic cellist, she has now also incorporated electronics, to a degree where it is sometimes impossible to determine the point at which her playing separates from that of Halvorson.

And, even stronger than on the earlier albums, 3+3 evinces a degree of neo-psychic interaction between the players which, while present in other bands, is a rare quality. This is true of any combination of the players but is positively off-planet when the focus is Reid's cello and Halvorson's guitar; their trippy two-step towards the end of "Turning Inward/Sometimes You Just Have To Run With It" is a transcendent moment, and there are others..

So far in 2024, the only album heard in this parish which is in the same league as 3+3 in terms of singularity and daring is British bassist Ruth Goller's Skyllumina (International Anthem). Two such extraordinary albums in as many months is something to celebrate.

P.S. At the time of writing, none of 3+3's three tracks are up on YouTube. So below is the next best thing: footage of the quartet at the start of its trajectory, at the 2014 Chicago Jazz Festival.

Track Listing

Turning Inward/Sometimes You Just Have To Run With It; Sauntering With Mr. Brown; Exploring Outward/Funambulist Fever.

Personnel

Album information

Title: 3+3 | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


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