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Tomeka Reid: Tomeka Reid Quartet

Hrayr Attarian By

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As an accomplished composer and improviser, cellist Tomeka Reid, is an integral part of Chicago's creative music scene. In addition to being an educator, Reid is a versatile and tireless performer both in her hometown and beyond. Moreover her unique style graces the works of such luminaries as flutist Nicole Mitchell, multireed player Anthony Braxton as well as her own collaborative trio albums. The tense and thrilling Tomeka Reid Quartet is her first release as a leader.

The, mostly original, pieces bubble with a fiery intensity and a deep-seated lyricism. Despite their intriguingly complex texture there is ample room for individual expression. Reid crafts the captivating "Billy Bang's Bounce" from a heady mixture of boppish themes and languid, West African inspired motifs. Innovative powerhouse, guitarist Mary Halvorson, weaves an angular and enthralling improvisation around Reid's expectant reverberations. Reid's own furious solo brims with intelligence and flirts passionately with atonality. The stormy group play gracefully returns to the lilting head.

Driving this exciting music is drummer Tomas Fujiwara. His polyrhythmic flourishes are not only limited to the up-tempo percussive tunes such as "Samo Swing" but also the somber "Glass Light." Fujiwara's militaristic beats roar along bassist Jason Roebke's pulsating thuds and thumps. The duo creates a cinematic backdrop to Reid's undulating, melancholic phrases and Halvorson's wistfully sparkling strings. Reid and Halvorson's dialogue grows unfettered and delightfully dissonant. Roebke's crisp, clear bass lines and Fujiwara's percussive clusters contrast provocatively with Reid's wailing cello and Halvorson's urgently ringing guitar.

The quartet members also have superb camaraderie with one another. On the Latin tinged "Etoile" Reid and Halvorson engage in an eloquent conversation that percolates with intense emotion and inventive ideas. Roebke's bittersweet tones, during his time in the spotlight, reflect Reid's mellifluous and nostalgic melody. Fujiwara's rolling drums add a delectably dark undercurrent to the collective sound.

Reid's debut is a stimulating and mesmerizing work that showcases the superlative cellist's artistry at its best. Her exquisite instrumental prowess as well as her brilliant writing make this a singular record. This splendid and elegant freshman is just a glimpse of Reid's outstanding career.

Track Listing: 17 West; Etoile; Billy Bang's Bounce; Improv #1; Glass Light; Woodlawn; Super Nova; The Lone Wait; Samo Swing; Improv #2.

Personnel: Tomeka Reid: cello; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Jason Roebke: bass; Tomas Fujiwara: drums.

Title: Tomeka Reid Quartet | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings

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CD/LP/Track Review
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