Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly

Last Year’s Ghost
482 Music 482-1055 (www.482music.com)

Chicago drummer Mike Reed’s notable quintet session is not only the result of his rhythmic and compositional ideas, but also benefits from interconnections among the players. Each has some shared history with the others, which the drummer builds on to his – and the music’s – advantage.

Besides leading his own bands, for instance, Reed regularly gigs with ensembles such as the Exploding Star Orchestra (ESO). Vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz is also in the ESO; bassist Josh Abrams plays in flautist Nicole Mitchell’s groups, as does cellist Tomeka Reid; while alto saxophonist Greg Ward works in the Bindu combo.

With a languid vibrato that harkens back to Johnny Hodges, Ward is the melodist on most of the CD’s11 tunes. Everyone solos, but Ward’s mellow timbres usually recap heads and signal each piece’s conclusion.

Compositions such as the title tune and “The Entire State of Florida” follow similar strategies. On the first, a chording arco bass line and singular vibe concussion vibrate unobtrusively as the altoist limns the slinky head. After Ward’s reed cadenzas, Adasiewicz introduces double mallet quivers that only latterly become percussive. Finally, as the bassist and drummer toughen the beat with cross patterns, Ward reintroduces the theme in double counterpoint with Abrams’ bowing.

Echoing ratamacues and rebounds characterize Reed’s treatment of “Last Year’s Ghost”, while walking bass carries the beat. Flutter-tongued reed trills and wide swipes from Reid’s cello mirror one another, as the percussion display expands to double-thumping snares and ratcheting claves. Able to splatter flams and paradiddles at will, Reed never hogs the foreground, allowing his compositions, which range from freebop modern to suspenseful Film Noir intimations, to make his statements.

While Loose Assembly may illustrate last year’s ghost, its members also represent future years’ promising improvisers.

— Ken Waxman

CODA Issue 334