Sunday, July 09, 2017

Mike Reed - Flesh and Bone (482 Music, 2017)

While on tour in 2009, drummer Mike Reed and his group was caught in the middle of a neo-Nazi rally in the Czech Republic. It was a terrifying experience, one that Reed made the best of by writing music that became this powerful and thought provoking album. He leads an excellent band featuring Greg Ward on alto saxophone, Tim Haldeman on tenor saxophone, Jason Roebke on bass, Ben Lamar Gay on cornet, Jason Stein on bass clarinet and Marvin Tate on vocals. The album opens with "Voyagers" which is a strong brisk modern jazz track with tight rhythm and excellent saxophone playing. The group develops a strong theme and make pointed and thoughtful weaving of the horns which develop powerful riffs, which allow the horns to weave in and out over strong bass and drums. There is spoken word anchoring "First Reading SF Sky" with deep words hankering back to The Last Poets, but moving forward to today, over light clarinet and percussion. "Conversation Music" blends clarinet with horns in a pleasing manner, building the music step by step as light clarinet leads into the rest of the band joining, with patient trumpet playing over soft bass and drums, he takes a nice solo turn as the other horns frame the trumpet. A tight funky groove introduces "A Separatist Party" with nimble saxophone and bass clarinet leading the charge of bright horns and danceable beat. The saxophone breaks out for a nice improvised solo over a strong bass and drums pulse, then the whole band comes together for a delightful collective improvisation. "The Magic Drum" is a short interlude for gentle percussion, leading into the bursting horns of "My Imaginary Friend (Tyshawn Sorey)" which poke at the surroundings with a fine unaccompanied saxophone feature. The full band enters with a glorious blast of noise, sounding like a big band while making space for short solos from Stein on bass clarinet, followed by a section for trumpet that is framed by excellent bass and drums, and the colorful horn section. "I Want to Be Small (For Archibald Motley)" is a lush ballad that moves in a stately manner, with breathy saxophone shadowed by the horns and soft percussion, which leads into further spoken word on "Second Reading Me Day." Thick bass anchors "Watching the Boats" opening with a fine solo statement, then horns build in, fluttering around like birds approaching a nest. Defiant words and scat are at play on "Call Off Tomorrow" which continue at a fast pace with the band egging Tate on all the way. The group then blasts off on its own with explosive riffing and taut soloing. Mike Reed was looking to make a direct response to a traumatic incident, and he was very successful. This is a potent album is protest music of the highest order, in the tradition of We Insist by Max Roach and Freedom Suite by Sonny Rollins. They create a thoughtful response to the incident, and use their music to make listeners think about their own worldview. Flesh and Bone - Bandcamp.

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