Mike Reed's roots in the sound of Chicago are evident before one even considers the tunes and veterans who guest on his latest People, Places & Things project, Stories and Negotiations. After a couple minutes of tooting and wandering that opens the session, the band alights into the theme of "Song of a Star," a happy mid tempo swinger. In one form or another Reed's beat - very much a wide-open Chicago groove - never fails. It's a timeless groove that harks back to Baby Dodds with Papa Joe and up through the Free Jazz revolution. Reed's People, Places & Things is dedicated to celebrating that tradition. And, with this latest rehearsed and recorded in the heart of the city, he reaches further back than his previous two sessions, bringing in Hard Bopper Sullivan (sticking with tenor saxophone here), Hoyle on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Priester on trombone, whose careers span from Hard Bop to the beyond including service with Sun Ra. They join Reed's usual aggregation of alto saxophonist Ward, tenor saxophonist Haldeman, and bassist Roebke, who like Reed, show a focus on Free doesn't mean a rhythm can't also swing with energy and verve. Reed also enlists trombonist Bishop, who visited with the ensemble on its last outing. Now the easiest way to bring these multi-generational forces into line would be an old-fashioned jam session - and not an inappropriate way either - but Reed is careful to create instead a context to focus and amplify the characteristics of the individuals and the ensemble. He gathers five little-heard gems of the Chicago Hard Bop literature, including Sun Ra’s "El Is the Sound of Joy," that shows Saturn caught in the web of the South Side, and then he and Ward created originals dedicated to their special
guests. The settings in place, the band wails. The music is full of roaring ensembles and trenchant colorful blowing. By maintaining a sense of balance between soloists and ensemble, Reed and Ward, who collaborated on the arrangements, bring out the distinctiveness of each player. Hoyle especially is a revelation, making the most of the feature fashioned for him. He's a living, vital figure of the city's musical history, and Stories and Negotiations is another dazzling chapter in that history.
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