December 16, 2015
482 Music 482-1093
By Ken Waxman
Deciding to honour earlier members of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM) during the organizations’ 50th anniversary year, flutist Nicole Mitchell, cellist Tomeka Reid and drummer Mike Reed – AACMers themselves – initiated this nonpareil program. Like musicians who miniaturize symphonic score for chamber music ensembles, the three dextrously re-imagine pieces composed for larger, usually saxophone-oriented bands, so that the vibrant swing of the pieces is expressed alongside their exploratory natures.
Cases in point are two tunes by drummer Steve McCall, “B.K.” and “I’ll be Right Here Waiting”, which flow seamlessly into one another; plus saxophonist Ed Wilkerson’s “Light on the Path”. During the first two, as the slaps and strums from Reid’s cello inhabit the double bass role and Reed contributes pointed rat-tat-tats, joyous benevolence is expressed in Mitchell’s measured but light-hearted flute cadenzas. Livelier still, “Light on the Path” mates a masterful shuffle beat with near-rainbow-hues of timbres from the flutist. As Reed’s whimsical beats couple with Mitchell’s double and triple tonguing, the elasticity of the theme stretches enough so that it’s almost sonically diaphanous.
Vocally intoning the title lyrics throughout while adding double-stopping string harmonies and judicious electronic wobbles, the trio’s variant of pianist Amina Claudine Myers’ “Have Mercy on Us” brings out the exotic as well as ecclesiastical essence of the composition. Even “Composition 238”, a piece by the reputedly difficult multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton, is transformed into a deft swinger; while pianist Muhal Richard Abrams’ “Munkt Monk” becomes an angular near-march. Together skittering cello twangs, harsh tongue-fluttering flute line and Reed`s perfectly timed drum beats conjure up images of the hippest fife-and-drum corps that ever played, demystifying these AACM classics as they expand them.
By manifestly remaining themselves while saluting older inspirations, Mitchell, Reid and Reed have created the perfect golden anniversary present for the AACM … and the listener.
—For The Whole Note Deecmeber 2015