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'Tomeka Reid Quartet' Offers A Tightly Synchronized Mix Of Cello And Guitar

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'Tomeka Reid Quartet' Offers A Tightly Synchronized Mix Of Cello And Guitar

Music Reviews

'Tomeka Reid Quartet' Offers A Tightly Synchronized Mix Of Cello And Guitar

'Tomeka Reid Quartet' Offers A Tightly Synchronized Mix Of Cello And Guitar

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/448297104/448314635" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Cellist Tomeka Reid was headed toward a career as a classical musician, but was drawn to jazz. Critic Kevin Whitehead says her band's new album, The Tomeka Reid Quartet, has good chemistry all around.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Chicago cellist Tomeka Reid was headed toward a career as a classical musician when she got drawn into playing jazz and improvised music. But she still loves the intimacy of chamber ensembles. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Tomeka Reid's new Chicago-New York quartet is tightly synchronized.

(SOUNDBITE OF ERIC DOLPHY SONG, "17 WEST" PERFORMED BY TOMEKA REID QUARTET)

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Cellist Tomeka Reid on "17 West" by Eric Dolphy, which he recorded in 1960 with Ron Carter on cello. I have to laugh when some publicist, journalist or even cellist maintains playing jazz on cello as some bold new idea. There have been literally dozens of improvising cello players since the 1950s. Tomeka Reid embraces that tradition, the better to build on it. The lineup on her new album, "Tomeka Reid Quartet," which mixes cello and guitar, draws a connection to Chico Hamilton's chamber jazz quintet from the '50s. But Reid's foursome gets more low-down.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOMEKA REID QUARTET SONG)

WHITEHEAD: Chicago's Tomeka Reid on cello with New York's Mary Halvorson on guitar. There have been string players in jazz from the beginning, with cello becoming almost common after the '70s. And Tomeka Reid likes to honor her string heroes. "Billy Bang's Bounce" catches the flavor of that late violinist's sweetly woody sound. Bassist Jason Roebke gets them started with a chunky, early Sun Ra Chicago beat.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOMEKA REID QUARTET SONG, "BILL BANG'S BOUNCE")

WHITEHEAD: Ace guitarist Mary Halvorson plays in a lot of bands, including some very good ones. But Tomeka Reid's quartet fits her especially well. Halvorson starts out with a spiky, old-fashioned jazz guitar tone, then cuts it with spider-walking lines and electronic squiggles. Here, she swings a little more overtly than elsewhere. But Halvorson's not one to play it safe. The drummer is a frequent collaborator from back east, Tomas Fujiwara.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOMEKA REID QUARTET SONG)

WHITEHEAD: Mary Halvorson on guitar. Cellist Tomeka Reid writes atmospheric pieces too. But her heavy groove numbers really put the players in the mood to play. Reid gives them plenty of room, sometimes more than she gives herself. She's more exposed on her other new album, called "Artifacts," for a co-op trio with flutist Nicole Mitchell and drummer Mike Reed playing music by fellow Chicagoans. But in Reid's own quartet, she's apt to bow or pluck cello within the ensemble, the better to blend with guitar and bass. The strings bind together nicely, and the drums give them a propulsive kick. There's good chemistry all around.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOMEKA REID QUARTET SONG)

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and is the author of "Why Jazz?" He reviewed the new recording by the Tomeka Reid Quartet on the Thirsty Ear label. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, I'll talk with Justin Theroux, who stars in the HBO series "The Leftovers," about the people who remain on Earth after 2 percent of the world's population mysteriously vanishes in a split second. Is it the rapture, an act of God? Are the people on Earth spared or condemned? Season two is underway. Theroux co-wrote the comedy "Tropic Thunder" with Ben Stiller and wrote the screenplay for the forthcoming "Zoolander" sequel. I hope you'll join us.

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