Mike Reed’s Living by Lanterns - Rote Fabrik, Zürich, 23 February 2013

Taylor Ho Bynum cornet, Greg Ward alto sax, Matt Bauder tenor sax, Jason Adasiewicz vibraphone, Mary Halvorson guitar, Tomeka Reid cello, Joshua Abrams bass, Tomas Fujiwara drums, Mike Reed drums

Some loose impressions (resurrected in May 2016):

Terrific concert! They skipped the quintet set (a first set by Loose Assembly was announced) and played two long sets in the large formation. Nick Butcher wasn't there, no electronics from Reed either, as far as I could tell ... Jason Adasiewicz was laying out the night before at the Bimhuis, not feeling well, I heard. He was very much a presence tonight*. I loved the twin-drums of Reed and Fujiwara, infectious to boot! ... I loved Mary Halvorson's guitar, at times melodic and playful, at times probing and noisy ... I loved the three-horn frontline, muscular tenor from Bauder, whimsical, at time enormously lyrical alto from Ward (what a sound!), and truly Puck-like cornet from Taylor Ho Bynum, running the gamut from didjeridoo-sounds to punching highnote runs ... I loved Tomeka Reid's cello (low in the mix, alas, but in the second set she had a lengthy feature ... I loved the boomy bass of Josh Abrams (who also had a few fine solo spots) ... and I loved the music! Based on some Sun Ra stuff they got on tape or some such ... not that it really matters, but indeed this is Chicago music, funky, earthy, aware, wild, lyrical, hilarious, sublime, stomping, preaching, swinging, singing, whispering, crying, rhapsodizing ...

This band combines the exuberance and joy of Sun Ra and of Chicago/AACM Jazz in general (sure, there's grief and sorrow, too, and laments) with a way of dealing with composed material that reminded me more of Mingus than of the somewhat over-controlled work of Laubrock - who plays tenor on the LP instead of Matt Bauder, btw. That same Bauder was one of the biggest surprises for me in the concert, as I'd seen him before once (I think with Taylor Ho Bynum's sextet w/Halvorson, too), and he left a somewhat too controlled impression on me back then, as well ... none of that last night! He was raunchy, bold, and he played the largest part in a tune that really reminded me of Mingus, "Blues & Roots"/"Ah Um" period, at its finest.

What I also enjoyed very much (though I overheard Irene Schweizer in the break saying that two drummers were never really needed) was the twin-drumming of Reed and Fujiwara. The later may be the more sophisticated player, breaking up the beat in a more complex way, but Reed just feels great. Together, they stirred up an amazing swing that made me think of Klook doing his stomping thing during the heyday of the Clarke-Boland Big Band with Kenny Clare. Obviously, the style of Reed and Fujiwara is somewhat different, but that infectiously grooving and stomping beat was there just as it was with Klook/Clare (whom I only know, alas, from records and some videos).

Anyway, one point of distinction may be Chicago vs. New York ... controlled exuberance vs. occasionally exaggerated control, maybe? I really wish I could see Chicago musicians more often, Ernest Dawkins, Kahil El'Zabar etc ... no matter if they "in" or "out" (actually, what I love so much about Chicago's jazz is that often it's both at the same time), they just convey a deep love for tradition that allows them to somehow dig deeper into music.

A truly wonderful concert - outstanding in fact, even more so looking back on it, three years later!

*) when I mentioned this to Adasiewicz, in March 2016 in Warsaw, he was amazed to hear this - he said he remembered that night, or rather not-remembered it, as he was under heavy medication and playing on auto-pilot ...

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