Mike Reed's Loose Assembly with Roscoe Mitchell | Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Mike Reed's Loose Assembly with Roscoe Mitchell 

When: Sat., Nov. 20, 4 p.m. 2010
"Empathetic Parts," the 33-minute title track of the latest album by local quintet Loose Assembly, introduces a form of "collective arranging" developed by drummer and bandleader Mike Reed. After a brief composed introduction, each player—Reed, bassist Joshua Abrams, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, cellist Tomeka Reid, alto saxophonist Greg Ward, and guest reedist Roscoe Mitchell—assumes responsibility for one of six categories of musical activity, among them long tones, free time, pointillistic swing, and silence. They all have batteries of color-coded paddles they use to signal one another—each paddle corresponds to the stripes sewn to a different musician's jacket—and for each section of the piece one player serves as conductor, directing the rest of the ensemble in its interpretation of the concept he or she is assigned. Everyone is free to dissent from such direction, though, and a different band member—not the conductor—gets to decide when and how the next section begins. By now it should be obvious how the album got its name—without empathy, this would be a recipe for ego-tripping and frustration. But the members of Loose Assembly support rather than dominate one another, so that the music slips fluidly from full-steam-ahead ensemble swinging to spiky staccato exchanges. Mitchell, an outsider to the group, uses his astounding virtuosity to keep things from getting too cozy: sometimes he hangs back, contributing tiny but telling gestures, and sometimes he uses circular breathing to unleash extended barrages of confrontationally sharp pitches that ratchet up the tension to thrilling effect. The result is Loose Assembly's most exciting music to date. The band will perform all new material for this concert, which takes place on the glass-enclosed stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion—allowing the audience to enjoy a view of the park without freezing in it. —Bill Meyer


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