Mike Reed's People, Places, & Things Agenda Recommended Soundboard

When: Sun., May 20, 10 p.m. 2012

From the outset, this quartet has aimed to connect the overlooked postbop created in Chicago in the late 50s to the jazz of the present, and that's precisely what it did on its first recordings. On the group's debut, it interpreted late-50s material; on its second album, it focused on new tunes in the same vein by its members and a few peers; on its third, it collaborated with veterans who'd been active in the late 50s (trumpeter Art Hoyle, trombonist Julian Priester, and reedist Ira Sullivan) to play a mixture of old and new songs. Clean on the Corner (482 Music), the group's new record, contains originals by drummer and group leader Mike Reed, a 50s number by John Jenkins ("Sharon"), and a bluesy postbop treatment of Roscoe Mitchell's early free-jazz classic "Old." Superb New York pianist Craig Taborn guests on two pieces, and local cornetist Josh Berman sits in for two others. The band hasn't quite outlasted its conceptual framework, though this album does seem to exist outside the self-contained trilogy of the first three—but at any rate, what's always most distinguished People, Places & Things is the members' high-level rapport, not their choice of material. Saxophonists Greg Ward and Tim Haldeman both have an easy mastery of the stylistic languages of the past and present, and they can egg each other on, finish each other's phrases, and improvise simultaneously without ever getting in each other's way. Reed and bassist Jason Roebke embody Chicago's scrappy, unfussy blue-collar aesthetic in the best ways, giving the music a full-bodied thrust and emotional lift. Because Ward lives in New York and Haldeman in Ann Arbor, the band doesn't play often in Chicago—this release party is its first Chicago gig in four months—but I've yet to hear a long stretch of time away affect its energy or empathy. —Peter Margasak

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