Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Clean on the Corner (2012)
Originally founded in 2008 to commemorate the lesser known "people, places & things" that have historically supported Chicago's progressive jazz scene, Mike Reed's ensemble of the same name continues to ply its bold interpretations of lesser known covers and swinging originals on Clean on the Corner, their fourth recording for 482 Music. Although this session breaks from the prevailing concept that defined their first three releases, it continues to skillfully balance inside and outside traditions, drawing inspiration from past antecedents and current innovations.
Since Proliferation, their 2008 debut, the drummer's acoustic quartet has issued a pair of records featuring notable contributions from fellow Windy City artists. 2009's About Us recruited peers Jeb Bishop, David Boykin and Jeff Parker as guests, while 2010's Stories and Negotiations documented an all-star concert with elder statesmen Art Hoyle, Julian Priester and Ira Sullivan. This date follows in the footsteps of the band's sophomore effort; pianist Craig Taborn and cornetist Josh Berman each appear on two tracks apiece, joining the longstanding line-up of Reed, alto saxophonist Greg Ward, tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman, and bassist Jason Roebke.
The majority of the tunes are new, although there are two notably obscure covers: a prickly interpretation of Roscoe Mitchell's "Old" and a blistering run through "Sharon," written by under-sung altoist John Jenkins. The former number establishes the group's link to the seminal work of the AACM as Haldeman and Ward spin acerbic variations from Mitchell's bluesy theme. The later piece finds the unit updating bebop conventions with a strident modernistic slant, underpinned by Reed and Roebke's taut, in-the-pocket groove; their adroit facility for subtle, intuitive interplay is even more apparent on Reed's ethereal tone poem "December?." The remainder of the set alternates between diverse blues moods, from the wiry free bop of "The Lady Has a Bomb" to the impressionistic balladry of "Where the Story Ends."
As with the quartet's prior endeavors, the guest contributions prove to be highlights. Taborn's bristling arpeggios elevate the aforementioned "Sharon," while his punctilious filigrees buttress the expansive tonalities and elastic rhythms of "The Ephemeral Words of Ruth." Berman serves as the yin to Taborn's yang; his dulcet brass ruminations on the languid "House of Three Smiles" and contemplative closer "Warming Down" provide harmonious contrast to Taborn's oblique extrapolations, trading urbane expressionism for forthright lyricism.
Clean on the Corner adds a new chapter to the legacy celebrated by Reed's initial People, Places & Things album trilogy, gracefully moving the tradition forward informed by lessons of the past.
Track Listing: The Lady Has a Bomb; Old; December?; Where the Story Ends; Sharon; House of Three Smiles; The Ephemeral Worlds of Ruth; Warming Down.
Personnel: Mike Reed: drums, percussion; Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Tim Haldeman: tenor saxophone; Jason Roebke: bass; Craig Taborn: piano (5, 7); Josh Berman: cornet (6, 8).