Mike Reed’s People, Places & Things

Stories and Negotiations
482 Music 482-1070

Peeping Tom

File Under: Bebop

Umlaut [lc-umcd01]

Respect for the Jazz tradition runs in cycles. In the early 1970s when Jazz-Rock Fusion claimed popular attention, it seemed that the only young musicians interested in tradition were so-called avant-gardists such as reedist Anthony Braxton and the Air trio. During the next decade when the musical Reganites appeared, Jazz standards had to be recreated in a certain style and were part of their protected turf. Now that many of the neo-cons have adopted hip-hop moves or concentrate on mainstream styled originals, the tradition has been jettisoned along with fade haircuts. Who is left to keep the tradition going then? Surprise, it’s the experimental musicians again.

Each of these fine sessions – one American, one European – outlines how to respect the tradition while making it new. But each does so singularly. Chicago drummer Mike Reed adds a trio of veteran Windy City-associated soloists to his People, Places & Things (PPT) quintet to renovate and re-harmonize some Chi-town Jazz classics on this live date. By placing them within a program of his original compositions, he pinpoints musical continuity.

Peeping Tom, a French-Swedish trio sets itself an even more difficult task. Playing some of the hoariest of hoary Bebop lines, the three deconstruct them down to bare bones once the head is played. By the end of this live date from Lyon, the eight 1940s classics sound contemporary. So do those lines from the 1950s and 1960s played by People, Places & Things.

A multi-stylistic drummer who knows when to push and when to lay back, Reed, who is vice chairmen of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), knows his Chicago history, and here celebrates unconventional vintage tunes composed by the likes of Sun Ra, Clifford Jordan and John Jenkins. Trombonist Julian Priester, who wrote “Urnack” for Sun Ra’s Arkestra, of which he was then a member helps play it here. The other 70-something veterans on hand are trumpeter and flugehornist Art Hoyle, whose experience encompasses the Arkestra and studio work, and tenor saxophonist Ira Sullivan who was part of the Jazz Messengers. The other PPTers are a mixture of AACM and Free Music stalwarts including trombonist Jeb Bishop, saxophonists Greg Ward (alto) and Tim Haldeman (tenor) plus Jason Roebke on bass.

Comparing Reed’s “Door #1” composed to feature Priester, and the octet’s version of the trombonist’s “Urnack” gives an idea of PPT’s cohesive approach. “Door #1” envelops the trombonist’s narrowed and breathy grace notes with chiaroscuro drum beats and pitter-patting bell pings, sul tasto bowed bass lines and wide harmonic vamps from the other horns. Taken andante, Priester’s flutter-tonguing and plunger cries probe the piece’s nuances with burry riffs and wide-bore coloration while leaving room for Hoyle’s rubato coloration. A near-intermezzo, “Urnack” alternates the loping swing which big bands like Count Basie and Gerry Mulligan specialized in with walking double-bass beats plus resilient Hard Bop-styled drum breaks and backbeats. Showcased on top are contrapuntal tongue flutters, honks and reed bites from the five horns.

Jordan’s “Lost and Found” features more pops and rebounds from Reed, more thumps from Roebke and triple-tonguing and stops from both Sullivan and Haldeman. Hoyle’s chromatic triplets, backing chords from the trombonist and hi-hat smacks from Reed take the tune out. Meanwhile, the trumpeter is suitably muted and lyrical, and surrounded by gorgeously harmonized overtone layers on his feature “Third Option” with the line extended with a near Cool Jazz tenor solo. Additionally Reed lets Ward and Haldeman trade licks and reed bites alongside his press rolls and patterning on “Wilbur’s Tune”, a 1950s drum feature brought up to date.

Most notably PPT illuminates the linkage between the large group stylings of Fletcher Henderson, Charles Mingus and Outer Space when recreating Sun Ra’s “El is a Sound of Joy”. With a capella horn blasts and broken-octave concordance throughout, the piece advances full-throttle prodded by Reed’s kicks, jumps and pops.

The performance similarly jumps and pops on the ironically titled File Under: Bebop. But the unwary should know that this is Bebop as imagined with the polytonal approach of Free Jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman and the extended techniques of Free Music saxman Evan Parker.

Concerned with sound and notation relations, Paris-based alto saxophonist Pierre-Antoine Badaroux is involved with graphic scores for contemporary music ensembles as well as improv. Drummer Antonin Gerbal moves between Jazz, Pop and Improv, while Swedish bassist Joel Grip has recorded with American tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas as well as French Free Music percussionist Didier Lasserre.

All this experience comes in handy when the three sonically masticate a set of Bop and Hard-Bop classics, chew on them for a while and spit them out somewhat altered but still retaining their basic shape. Ferocious in a praiseworthy fashion, Peeping Tom’s performance strategy encompasses pumping sul ponticello squeaks from Grip, rugged strokes and taunt beats from Gerbal and reed-biting, hard extended textures from Badaroux.

A Thelonious Monk medley such as “Locomotive/Light Blue/Evidence” for instance is taken super fast and fortissimo with thick press rolls, sawing bass lines and pumping string scrubs plus the saxophonist sounding as if he’s biting through his reed to bare the proper harsh notes. Eventually each theme is reduced to a series of sharp, tongue-splattered tones made up of fragmented air bubbles and atonal discord. When the initial theme is reconstituted at the end, Grip leaves out the final measure as he hammers on his strings.

A similar reconstitution takes place when Joseph Jarman’s “Old Time Southside Street Dance” is grafted onto Charlie Parker’s “Constellation”. Fluttering pulses from the toms, bass drum bops and snare ruffs and flams are heard before Badaroux sounds the initial theme, which quickly accelerates to triple-tonguing and growling. Grip scales his bass’s wood and Gerbal whaps riveted cymbals, as the saxophonist brings in the second tune at a staccato gallop, then precedes to shatter each melody into strident, fortissimo sound atoms, finally recapping the Jarman head at the finale.

Irony permeates Dizzy Gillespie “Bebop”, which initially appears to be played straight if super-fast; all walking bass and clanking cymbals. Yet the rhythm section lays out then responds with col legno sprawls from the bassist and speedy brush work from the drummer after Badaroux takes off, almost literally. Using unconnected honks and note shards his solo explodes into false registers with throat gurgles, between-the-teeth whistles and sharp squeaks. His head recapping at the climax includes parallel deconstruction of each line as he plays it.

Trading reverence for resourcefulness, both the trio and the octet offer cunning recasting of older classics. Mainstreamers may be frightened by these discs, but this is how the Jazz tradition will live on as a breathing entity rather than a fossil.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: File: 1. Koko 2. Locomotive/Light Blue/Evidence 3. Un Poco Loco 4. Constellation/Old Time Southside Street Dance 5. Mohawk 6. Bebop 7. Shaw ‘Nuff/Parisian Thoroughfare/Four In One 8. Donna Lee

Personnel: File: Pierre-Antoine Badaroux (alto saxophone); Joel Grip (bass) and Antonin Gerbal (drums)

Track Listing: Stories: 1. Song of a Star 2. Third Option 3. El is a Sound of Joy 4. Wilbur’s Tune 5. The And of 2 6. Door #1 7. Urnack 8. Lost and Found

Personnel: Stories: Art Hoyle (trumpet and flugelhorn), Julian Priester and Jeb Bishop (trombone); Greg Ward (alto saxophone); Tim Haldeman and Ira Sullivan (tenor saxophone); Jason Roebke (bass) and Mike Reed (drums)