For the Record
...Loose Assembly, one of several bands led by overachieving drummer Mike Reed. A driving force in new Chicago music, he's a younger member of the AACM, helps curate the Chicago Jazz Festival, and runs the avant-pop Pitchfork Festival (suddenly indie rockers' ears perk up, if they've read this far). Reed and Ward also helm the tribute to '50s/'60s Chicago hard-bop called People, Places and Things (who have a CD called Proliferation), but here the action is all post-'60s and forward-thinking in nature.
The first piece that makes a solid impression is their treatment of Max Roach's Afro-Cuban flavored "Garvey's Ghost," here given an atmospheric, free-flowing air, punctuated by the beautiful scrapings of cellist Tomeka Reid, the careful vibes of Jason Adasiewicz, and a strong melodic solo by Ward. The group also brings depth of expression to a tune by Ethiopian legend Mulatu Astatke, where Ward does a great job of laying out the distinctive East African head while Adasiewicz jazzes things up and Reed provides solid anchorage.
But Reed's original material shows plenty of strength as well. Among his winners are "Soul Stirrer," which with Reed's tom-tom underpinnings and Adasiewicz's ringing tones recalls Martin Denny's jungle-laden exotica mixed with a more laid-back Coltrane (although Reed says much of Loose Assembly is inspired by Henry Threadgill's band Air). And "Exit Strategy," with a dissonant head that Ward collapses and transforms into fiery runs while Reed swings furiously in the background and bassist Josh Abrams takes a Mingus-like turn, would be impressive even in the hands of a band of seasoned European players.
Conclusion: If anyone says jazz is dead (or continues to look to a cadre of suit-wearing 'young lions' for guidance) after listening to these discs, they ought to have their head examined. And then get on the first train to Chicago and spend a month in the clubs, where the spirit of the AACM and their allies lives on and on.
Back to Loose Assembly: Speed of Change album page.
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