"...a stimulating and mesmerizing work that showcases the superlative cellist's artistry at its best. Her exquisite instrumental prowess as well as her brilliant writing make this a singular record...programmed with an excellent sense of pace and point.” – All About Jazz
“Cellist Tomeka Reid has been on a serious tear lately; perhaps you noted her on the commanding new album by The Art Ensemble of Chicago, or with the chamberlike Artifacts Trio. Old New is Reid’s second album with [her] rough-and-ready .... If the title calls to mind an Art Ensemble rallying cry, “Ancient to the Future,” that’s probably not a mere coincidence.” – Nate Chinen / WBGO
The jazz polls might still list cello under the miscellaneous instrument category, but in the hands of Tomeka Reid it’s an essential vehicle for unfettered jazz exploration. Old New, the second album by the Tomeka Reid Quartet, exemplifies why she’s quickly become a definitive figure on the 21st century jazz scene. As a composer, arranger, improviser, bandleader, and impresario, she embodies jazz’s progressive ethos.
Crafting memorable tunes brimming with arresting textures and melodies, Reid creates music palpably connected to the tradition while recasting those sounds to meet her own expressive needs. Old new, indeed!
While Reid has recorded prolifically since making her debut on flutist Nicole Mitchell’s 2002 album Afrika Rising, Old New is only her second album leading her own band. It’s essentially a string band, an electro-acoustic hybrid in which any player might take on bass, melodic or rhythmic responsibilities at any given time.
“I wanted to have a string-centered group,” says Reid, who was recently voted Violinist/Violist/Cellist of the Year for the second consecutive time by the Jazz Journalists Association and the first place winner on ‘Miscellaneous Instrument’ in DownBeat’s critic’s poll. “I wanted a harmonic instrument, but not piano and I wanted to go in a different direction. For this quartet I like Mary’s manner of using pedals in interesting and creative ways. You can hear right away that it’s her. I like that contrast with me being all acoustic in this ensemble.”
“What’s awesome as a cellist is that we can create a sound for ourselves,” said Reid. “We do have a history, but not the same kind as trumpet, saxophone and pianists for example, with hundreds and hundreds of predecessors. I’ve come to appreciate that a lot more.” With Old New, Tomeka Reid has staked another flag in the future.
"It’s a challenge to think of many high profile cellists in the worlds of jazz and free improvisation. Go back to the bebop era and you have Oscar Pettiford, pioneer of the cello as a solo instrument in jazz. Fast forward a bit and you come to Tristan Honsinger, an artist at home in free jazz and improv who played extensively with Cecil Taylor in the 1980s and 90s. On her second album leading her eponymous quartet, Tomeka Reid proves conclusively that she’s comfortable occupying both ends of that stylistic spectrum – often in the same tune – while pushing further into even less familiar territory.
The quartet is essentially an updated string band, featuring Mary Halvorson on guitar and Jason Roebke on bass, plus Tomas Fujiwara on drums. It’s a configuration that oozes a kind of sepia old-time charm, harking back to the early days of jazz when string bands were at their most popular. At the same time, many of Reid’s compositions have a puckish 20th century bop sensibility. “Sadie” is a sweetly swinging ditty with walking bass and sighing brushes, while “Wabash Blues” leads with a tartly melodic head that could easily be the score for a swing-era silent movie showing Model Ts trundling down the streets of black and white Chicago.
Yet, nothing is ever quite as it seems. “Wabash Blues” for instance breaks out of that demure beginning into a broiling energy with bullish bass and drums, and Reid taking a wild solo that roars and shrieks. Then there’s Mary Halvorson: utterly unmistakable in her solos, full
of trademark smears and swoops and wonky runs. Even when she’s playing pert unison lines with Reid, she can’t help leaking outside the melodic frameworks with warping blurs and slippages, like a child deliberately colouring outside the lines just to see what it looks like.
Reid, too, reveals herself as a soloist of fierce imagination, moving from fingertip bends and scuttling pings in the freeform opening of “Aug 6” to crazed, soaring arco stridulations in “Ballad”. On “Peripatetic” the quartet even come across like King Crimson circa Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, with sombre, lumbering charts giving way to a frenzied freakout and Halvorson’s guitar crunching through overdriven ecstasies. It’s an album that is convincingly both ‘in’ and ‘out’ at the same time, straightfaced yet self undermining, serious yet playful – and always heaps of fun." – Daniel Spicer / The Wire (UK) 10/2019
released October 4, 2019
Tomeka Reid, cello
Mary Halvorson, guitar
Jason Roebke, bass
Tomas Fujiwara, drums
Recorded by Eivind Opsvik at Greenwood Underground, Brooklyn, NY 4/18/2018.
Mixed by Nick Broste at Shape Shoppe, Chicago, IL 9/13/2018.
Mastered by Dave Zuchowski, Davernoise, Chicago, IL 10/24/2018.
Producer: Tomeka Reid
All compositions by Tomeka Reid, Peoples Child Music, ASCAP.