Label/Year: 482 Music, 2017
Lineup – Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Tim Haldeman: tenor saxophone; Ben Lamar Guy: cornet; Jason Stein: baritone clarinet; Jason Roebke: bass; Mike Reed: drums.
Riding high in the aftermath of his previous album, the propulsive A New Kind of Dance (482 Music, 2015), and moved by a harrowing racial experience in Europe, Chicago drummer Mike Reed presents us his new rewarding project, Flesh & Bone. The band features the core of People, Places & Things quartet - Greg Ward on alto saxophone, Tim Haldeman on tenor, and Jason Roebke on bass - plus a pair of sturdy improvisers, Ben Lamar Guy on cornet and Jason Stein on baritone clarinet. There’s also the spoken word of Marvin Tate who tries to call our attention to a few specific problems of this world.
On “Voyagers”, the chord-less ensemble inaugurates a celebratory state of affairs that flourishes with multiple horn timbres dancing in-the-groove of an unflinching percussive motion.
Another tune that strikes with invigorating horn spins is “A Separatist Party”, which besides exhibiting often-static bass notes and a funky backbeat, also welcomes the horn players into the spotlight of a hot improvisational steam.
In a totally different mood, “Conversation Music” features unobvious cornet routes by Lamar Gay and comes orchestrated with a Mingus feel and densely populated with expressive horn fills in the background.
The introduction of “My Imaginary Friend” (referring to a possible dream with his fellow drummer Tyshawn Sorey) consists of a saxophone monologue provided by Ward. His peers join him, kicking into a happy swing momentarily disrupted to introduce a neurotic solo by Stein, who operates his bass clarinet embracing an extended tonal range. Shoulder to shoulder, Lamar Gay and Haldeman pop into the scene for a sparkling conversation that finishes with tonalities of a serious argument.
“I Want to Be Small” and “Watching the Boats” are deviated from rugged paths to provide for the melodious tranquility that also reveals the generous spirit of the group. The former, a tune dedicated to the painter Archibald Motley, features Ward developing a phraseology whose cordial sound and sweetness take us to Duke Ellington’s times. In turn, the latter, following Roebke’s bass intro, opens the doors to an Indian-tinged meditation whose melodic contours are exemplarily designed by the reedists.
Tate’s poking words can be heard in three tunes. On one of them, “Call of Tomorrow”, the band harks back once again to Mingus, while continuously changing scenarios, from effusive carnivalesque parades to good-old-times swinging walks to rousing collective improvisations.
Mike Reed melts past and present, fusing them beautifully in Flesh & Bone, an album that allows us to hear and feel the tactile intensity of the collective and the individual expression of the soloists.
01 – Voyagers ► 03 – Conversation Music ► 06 – My Imaginary Friend