Three Beats: Cellist Tomeka Reid steps out with Hear in Now | Three Beats | Chicago Reader

Three Beats: Cellist Tomeka Reid steps out with Hear in Now 

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click to enlarge Tomeka Reid - JIM NEWBERRY

JAZZ | Peter Margasak

Over the past few years, cellist Tomeka Reid has become an increasingly important part of the Chicago jazz and improvised-music community, playing in several high-profile groups, including Mike Reed's Loose Assembly, Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble, the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, and the AACM's Great Black Music Ensemble. Last summer the Chicago Jazz Ensemble commissioned her to write music for a Millennium Park concert honoring pianist Randy Weston, but that's been one of the few endeavors where she's had more than a supporting role.

Another is her excellent string trio Hear in Now, a leaderless ensemble with Italian bassist Silvia Bolognesi and New York violinist and vocalist Mazz Swift. The group made its local debut at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2010, nearly a year after its first show. That gig, set up by an Italian promoter, was at the Woma Jazz Festival in northern Italy; the three women had never met, let alone played together. "It was a whirlwind of a trip. We arrived on the day of the concert, rehearsed, played the gig that night, and then flew home early the next morning," Reid says.

"We just really clicked personality-wise and had such a blast playing together, so we thought, why not continue making music together—even with the obvious challenge that none of us lived near each other." The group has finally released its impressive self-titled debut on Italian label Rudi Records, and it includes compositions by all three members. Some are meticulously arranged, alternating between ethereal, levitating melodies and briskly swinging, extroverted postbop; others are texture-oriented free improvisations that sound surprisingly like classical music. Everyone uses a wide variety of techniques—their individual parts undergo constant metamorphosis—to create a rich ensemble sound.

Hear in Now has no shows planned for Chicago, though the group has a string of European dates in June. But Reid has a working trio here with bassist Joshua Abrams and guitarist Matt Schneider, plus exciting new projects that include a duo with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and a trio with cheap-electronics whiz Nick Butcher and New York drummer Tomas Fujiwara (the latter group has a recording session planned around a show at the Whistler on Tue 5/1). In April she'll launch a weekly solo engagement at the Bronzeville Coffee House (528 E. 43rd) on Sundays from 1-3 PM.

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