Mike Reed’s People Places & Things

Clean on the Corner
482 Music 482-1081

By Ken Waxman

One of Chicago drummer Mike Reed’s many identities is as a passionate booster of his home town’s music – present, past and future. This fourth CD with the People Places & Things combo is a milestone in that regard. He establishes the long-time sophistication of Second City jazz by blending original lines with ‘50s and ‘60s classics by saxophonists John Jenkins and Roscoe Mitchell. The band consists of some of Chicago’s top-rated players: alto saxophonist Greg Ward, tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman and bassist Jason Roebke; with cornetist Josh Berman and pianist Craig Taborn each added on two different tracks.

Jenkins (1931-1993), recorded with heavyweight like tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan in the mid-1950s then vanished. His “Sharon” is the prototypical hard bop line that echoes “Hot House” and includes gritty reed bites from the saxes, suggesting Jordan’s and Jenkins’ work together. Taking on pianist Sonny Clark’s role, Taborn interpolates a thoroughly modern conception into solos that are both chromatic and pulsing. A pre-Art Ensemble composition, Mitchell’s “Old” encompasses a blues sensibility and harmonized vamping from both saxophonists that climaxes in a finale of smears and snarls. Affiliated with as many Chicago bands as Reed, Roebke’s thick pulses and sturdy flow recall the late bassist Malachi Favors. His rhythmic sense is such that he brings balance to kinetic tunes like Reed’s moderato-paced “The Lady Has a Bomb”, that could have easily fit into the book of the AEC or Charles Mingus. Much of its bent-note power comes from Haldeman’s flutter-tongued obbligato abutting Ward’s shrieks and cries.

Berman’s contribution is palpable when his buttery flutter-tonguing at the beginning and end of “House of Three Smiles” removes any hint of experimentation from the exercise, which is a line re-composed and expanded by Reed from a solo by vibist Jason Adasiewicz, another Chicago associate. Berman’s muted horn is also the only soloist on the final “Warming Down”, a relaxed theme that composer Reed utilizes as set closer for an improvisational series he curates in a local club.

As entrepreneurial as any AACMer and with enough compositional and performing chops to put his playing and that of his associates in appropriate settings, Reed’s work is another demonstration why Chicago musicians still maintain the reputation for innovation advanced by earlier stylists like Jenkins, Jordan, Favors and Mitchell.

Tracks: The Lady Has a Bomb; Old; December?; Where the Story Ends; Sharon&; House of Three Smiles*; The Ephemeral Words of Ruth&; Warming Down*

Personnel: Josh Berman: cornet*; Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Tim Haldeman: tenor saxophone; Craig Taborn: piano&; Jason Roebke: bass; Mike Reed: drums

—For The New York City Jazz Record May 2013