Mike Reed introduces ‘A Different Kind of Dance’ to listeners

Mike Reed

Mike Reed

When drummer, composer and bandleader Mike Reed isn’t playing music he spends much of his time watching others making it. But he also observes audiences. As a concert and festival organizer, he’s informally noted the interaction between performer and audience for years, and while his rapidly expanding discography makes plain he privileges art above all else, his awareness of the listener is always present.

A New Kind of Dance, the sixth album by his long-running quartet People, Places & Things presents the same deft interactive rapport between alto saxophonist Greg Ward and tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman; the same crisp rhythmic drive provided by the leader and bassist Jason Roebke; and the same indelible mixture of bluesy depth and measured freedom as its superb predecessors. A New Kind of Dance advances the boundaries of the quartet’s repertoire further than ever and adds two guests to the mix: pianist Matt Shipp and trumpeter Marquis Hill.

“I wanted to challenge the quartet situation and make things slightly more dimensional, such as having three-part horn arrangements or having another harmony/rhythm instrument to dictate the path,” Reed said in a recent news release.

“I thought Matthew Shipp would throw some curve balls at the rest of the band. He has some elevated perspectives on improvising, while not standing on top of an ivory tower. His improvising is very humanistic, but he has no problem cutting people down to size, so that everyone can operate on a level playing field. Marquis seemed to be the right choice to find the right trumpet blend with Greg and Tim. His tone can keep things very centered, and he plays with a purpose.”

Here is an older video of People, Places & Things in action.

Composer/drummer Mike Reed releases new project with longtime quartet

reedA New Kind of Dance, the sixth album by Mike Reed’s long-running quartet People, Places & Things presents the same deft interactive rapport between alto saxophonist Greg Ward and tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman; the same crisp rhythmic drive provided by the leader and bassist Jason Roebke; and the same indelible mixture of bluesy depth and measured freedom as its superb predecessors. While the quartet was originally conceived to pay homage to an overlooked era in the rich history of Chicago jazz — namely, the soulful hard bop created by the likes of John Jenkins, Wilbur Campbell, Wilbur Ware, John Neely, and Frank Strozier, among others, in the mid-to-late 50s — the combo has since developed an-ever expanding repertoire, whether examining the potency of the Amsterdam scene on the 2013 album Second Cities Vol. 1 or digging into the music of contemporary Chicago figures on its 2009 album About Us. A New Kind of Dance advances the boundaries of the quartet’s repertoire further than ever.

“I don’t think that the group’s original mission has much to do with this project, but I do think, at its core, the music is meant to be nimble and smart with the arrangements,” says Reed in a news release. “However, it’s never meant to be too smart or removed from the audience.”

Reed’s connections to the Amsterdam scene are rooted in family ties — his mother grew up there — but he’s since developed strong relationships to musicians there. He had befriended the South American expat Sean Bergin, who died in September of 2012, and the influence of his music is very clear A New Kind of Dance. Bergin wrote the hard shuffling “Reib Letsma” and his love of South African kwela has long infected the Dutch scene, as heard on Michael Moore’s ebullient “Kwela for Taylor.”

“There’s an influence of grooving improvised music, mostly made in Europe, but which seems to have an original influence from South Africa,” Reed says. “Many of those early recordings did have some participation by former members of [South African expats] the Blue Notes, which made me look a little closer at that, and then made me realize the correlation between the music of Sean Bergin, ICP and many of the Dutch and some of the English Improvisers. It also seems to parallel the highly conceptual improvising of members of the AACM, who also did not shrug off the more grove-heavy nature of their own musical roots. I guess maybes there’s a desire to remember that this band is enjoyed most on a visceral level and to give in to the area that music effects people viscerally, mostly seen in movement.”