The saying might go something like, "Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it." For composer/bandleader Mike Reed, his knowledge of jazz history allows him the freedom to cherish and exalt the past.
Reed's prior disc, Proliferation (482 Music, 2008), revitalized Chicago jazz music from 1954-1960, covering tracks by under-appreciated artist Wilbur Campbell, Frank Strozier, Sun Ra, and John Jenkins. This first of three recordings heralded the past; a future recording will find principal players from the past playing today's music. With About Us Reed invited three contemporary Chicago musicians to supplement his quartet, People, Places & Things.
While About Us is looking more forward, the sound is firmly planted in Chicago's post-bop largess. Guests Jeb Bishop, David Boykin, and Jeff Parker each contribute a composition and their sound to individual tracks. Their music supplements a very strong quartet which includes tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman, bassist Jason Roebke, and alto saxophonist Greg Ward.
Reed's music is marked by his immense capacity for swing and propulsion. People, Places & Things features Haldeman and Ward, two ardent saxophonists that play in unison on "V.S. #1," then answer each other with compelling lines in coordinated patterns. Adding the guests to this sound makes Reed's band magnificent. Saxophonist David Boykin begins his bluesy "Big And Fine," like Reed, somewhere in the 1950s. As the song progresses the horns interlock, playing some three-hankie messinessChicago jazz arriving by riverboat from New Orleans. Likewise, trombonist Jeb Bishop's "Big Stubby" charts a groove from Chicago's hard bop past, playing on broad horn orchestrations before players spin off solos then come together in an a cappella mix. Finally, there's the quintessential modernist Jeff Parker, whose distinct guitar lines can sound simultaneously pacific and expansive. He creates a calm, even-handed and graceful ending to the session.
Mike Reed's mastery of the Chicago sound is both old school and thoroughly modern. About Us leaves the impression that his vision of a future's past is quite alive and flourishing.
Track Listing: It's Enough; V.S. #1; About Us; Big and 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 (with Ruby).
Personnel: Mike Reed: drums, melodica (8); Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Tim Haldeman: tenor saxophone; Jason Roebke: bass; David Boykin: tenor saxophone (4); Jeb Bishop: trombone (6); Jeff Parker: guitar (10).
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