For the follow up to the excellent debut Artifacts (482 Music, 2015), the stellar threesome of cellist Tomeka Reid, flautist Nicole Mitchell, and drummer Mike Reed waxes another outstanding album, but one which differs in two respects. Firstly this time out the emphasis is on the compositional smarts of the crew rather than a celebration of their forebears in Chicago's esteemed AACM. Secondly, as Mitchell elucidates, this collection is also more focused on the groove. But neither is a dramatic departure. Two works from the AACM canon sit alongside two joint pieces dedicated to departed elders from the organization. And in any case the earlier record had its fair share of foot tapping moments too.
Of the remaining cuts in the 38-minute program, two each stem from the pens of Mitchell and Reid, with another from Reed, although everyone has a hand in the arrangements. Mitchell once again establishes why she is one of the premier exponents of her instrument, supplementing her agile lines with vocal inflections, controlled overblowing and judicious use of electronics. In this outfit Reid handles what might be the bass role, anchoring with insistent figures and counterpoint, but also then exploits the cello's range with flowing arco melodies, hushed harmonics and abrasive swipes. But no matter how far they stretch the envelope, Reed always creates inventive and transparent beats to maintain buoyancy and mobility.
"Pleasure Palace" kicks off the disc with a locomotive vim, as Reid evokes improvising cello progenitor Abdul Wadud, which doesn't let up even during Reed's drum break. He takes the spotlight again to take out the jaunty swagger of "In Response To" with a cleanly articulated tumble, after Mitchell's thrilling solo. An infectious energy pervades the entire set. But pick of the originals is the poignant "Song For Helena," where they come closest to the chamber stylings the instrumentation might suggest until Reed's brushed shuffle ushers the group out of the drawing room and into the dancehall for some exquisite lyrical variations from first flute then cello.
They give Muhal Richard Abrams' "Soprano Song" a supercharged run out, and set Roscoe Mitchell's "No Side Effects" to a reggae beat, with Reid sawing funkily. Even on the collectives there's a pulse. On the suitably rhythmic "A.F." dedicated to drummer Alvin Fielder, after the atmospheric intro of Mitchell's bass flute bleats and overtones, Reed lays down a gently rolling cadence while Reid extemporizes a riff, while on "J.J.," for reedman Joseph Jarman, they fashion a restrained ethereal dirge.
Full of irresistible beats, attractive tunes, savvy arrangements and top notch playing, the Artifacts Trio shows that artistry and fun can high five without compromise.
Pleasure Palace; A.F.; Blessed; In Response To; Reflections; Song For Helena; Soprano Song;
J.J.; No Side Effects.
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