Mike Reed – The Separatist Party
(We Jazz Records/ Astral Spirits. wj56/ as231. Album review by Tony Dudley-Evans)
The Chicago jazz scene has its own character, which is quite different from New York’s. In fact, there are several overlapping scenes in the city: the members of the AACM (the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music), the improvisers such as KenVandermark, Dave Rempis and others, and then totally unique bands such as that led by Ben LaMar Gay.
Mike Reed is a key figure on the scene; as well as his role as drummer in many Chicago bands, he plays a major role in promotion. He was a co-founder of the Pitchfork Festival, is Chair of the Programming Committee for the Chicago Jazz Festival, and owns and programmes two key venues, Constellation and the Hungry Brain.
All these influences come together on this album which features musicians representing different parts of the Chicago scene: Ben LaMar Gay on cornet, the three members of the Bitchin Bajas trio, Rob Frye on tenor sax and flute, Cooper Crain on guitar and synths, and Dan Quinlivan on synths, and the spoken word artist Marvin Tate.
The album moves between Tate’s witty vocals, minimalist tracks featuring members of Bitchin Bajas and more spiritual tracks with LaMar Gay’s cornet interacting with Frye’s tenor sax over Reed’s powerful drumming.
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Tate features on four tracks, with a mix of intense declaiming of spoken word, hollering as Americans would say, and also singing, either over a repeated ambient groove as on Your Soul or One of Us, or a more funky rhythmic line as on We Just Came Here To Dance or Hold Me Hold Me. His words are often witty as in the line ‘your soul is like a mosh pit’ on Your Soul, or philosophical as on One Of Us where he talks of a neighbour who nearly became a member of the Temptations group, but ‘drank a lot’.
The instrumental tracks vary between the minimalist Floating With An Intimate Stranger and Eric’s Theme with Frye’s flute very much to the fore, and the more up tempo A Low Frequency Nightmare which has a strong groove and excellent interaction between LaMar Gay’s cornet and Frye’s tenor sax.
The group was one of the highlights of the Mulhouse Meteo Festival in August in France, and played Cafe Oto as part of that tour. It is a great live band, and the energy and fun of their music also comes across on the CD.
Mike Reed drums, percussion, Rob Frye tenor saxophone, flute, percussion
Cooper Crain guitar, synthesizer
Dan Quinlivan synthesizer
Marvin Tate vocals
Ben LaMar Gay cornet, flugelhorn, percussion