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It's good for jazz that Winter Jazzfest has grown too big for any one critic to handle in full. Bands can get lost amid the hubbub this way, but one of the standouts among this year's 55 acts was drummer Mike Reed's People, Places & Things (PPT), making its New York debut at Kenny's Castaways (Jan. 10th). Drawing on material from two 482 Music releases, Proliferation and the new About Us, the Chicago-based quartet had a lot to say but a short time in which to say it. So tenorist Tim Haldeman and altoist Greg Ward went to work quickly, tearing into the resolute straight-eighth pulse of "It's Enough" by Jason Roebke, the band's bassist. The set neatly encapsulated PPT's dual mission—to generate original music while continuing to explore long-overlooked gems of Chicago hardbop. "Wilbur's Tune" by Wilbur Campbell, "Is-It" by Walter Perkins' MJT+3 and the closing "Status Quo" by John Neely were marvels of compositional wit and swinging abandon. A wily free jazz prelude to "Status Quo" made the tune's suddenly erupting, ultra-precise bop unisons all the more impressive. The mood changed with the slow, saucy-drunk shuffle of "Big and Fine," by PPT colleague David Boykin (a guest on About Us, not present in New York). Roebke stepped up with his only solo, deep yet concise, yielding to interwoven dialogue from the horns until Reed cued a brighter midtempo feel—and before anyone could expect, the group fell into a manic accelerando, ending in a blur.
—David R. Adler