Clean on the Corner
The fourth album by Chicago drummer Mike Reed’s terrific People, Places & Things quartet departs the thematic framing of the first three, which celebrated postbop masters of the late ’50s, with a special focus on the Windy City. But while it’s a looser collection of tunes, Clean on the Corner is very much of a piece with those recordings in filtering the band’s love of postbop through the AACM and other free stylists of the ’60s.
PP&T, featuring the ascendant alto saxophonist Greg Ward, reflects its influences with such easy intelligence it’s clear that its members have grown up with this music or had close access to the artists who originated it. Reed has, in fact, worked recently with AACM great Roscoe Mitchell, whose late-’60s tune “Old” is given an easy-strolling update, its blues component intact, with Ward and first-rate tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman in limber counterpoint. Shifting modes, PP&T blows the doors off “Sharon,” a 1957 tune by unsung alto player John Jenkins, with a resounding chorus. The performance features guest pianist Craig Taborn, whose inside-outside attack and Midwestern moxie are perfectly suited to the group.
Reed composed six of the eight songs, of which “The Lady Has a Bomb” reveals a debt to Ornette Coleman with its insistent, open melody and the ballad “House of Three Smiles” (co-written by Jason Adasiewicz) recalls Charles Mingus with its luxuriant theme and shifting undercurrents. The latter song features a typically expansive solo by cornetist Josh Berman, another rising Chicago star with a special connection to his Windy City forebears.