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Avant-jazz throwdown (CD reviews)
Ottawa Citizen
About Us by Mike Reed's People Places & Things, a band which sounds like this (after about a minute of preliminary bumpf):

It's Enough

That's the opening track from the Chicago-based quartet's About Us, "It's Enough", by bassist Jason Roebke. It features tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman and alto saxophonist Greg Ward just flying, I think, forcefully propelled by Roebke and the group's leader, drummer Mike Reed.

That impressive display of spirit is consistent with all the music on About Us, one of the most compelling freebop-based discs I've heard in a long time. Reed's People Places & Things strikes me as potent group of players committed to affirming a common good, with compositions from all members fully and honestly explored. "V.S. #1" is a loping swinger, by saxophonist Reed, that simmers nicely in an open, half-time feel for a stretch behind Haldeman before the energy rises. Ward is strong and lyrical enough to carry the tune by himself when his turn comes to blow.

The title track, by Reed, is a bright-tempo romp with Ward in particular roaming keenly and incisively. "Under the Influence of Lunar Objects" is an even faster and invigorating Reed swinger, a contrafact of sorts on "How High The Moon". "Big and Fine" is a bluesy stroll contributed by saxophonist David Boykin, who adds his broad, raspy stylings to the band. At nearly 11 minutes, this tune is the only track on the disc that feels a bit baggy to me. More successful, I think, are the "Big Stubby", written by guest trombonist Jeb Bishop and "Days Fly By (With Ruby)" by guest guitarist Jeff Parker.

Finally, the disc's quieter moments are easy to savour. Reed's "The Next Time You Are Near" reveals that his quartet can take things down to a tender whisper, and Haldeman's turn on this tune is engagingly understated. On the short and moody "First Reading: Paul's Letter to the Ephesians", Reed switches to melodica, completing a plaintive choir with his saxophonists until the music becomes darker and more tense.

With its riveting combination of hard grooving, unfettered saxophone work, and sharp focusly group feeling, About Us introduced me to a group that I hope to hear more from soon.

Back to People Places and Things: About Us album page.
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