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Living By Lanterns: New Myth/Old Science

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As co-designers of one of the more intriguing archival projects in a while, Mike Reed and Jason Adasiewicz had their work cut out for them. Commissioned by Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio, home of the Sun Ra/El Saturn Collection, they had to derive a cohesive set of songs from 700 hours of previously unheard material. The music (which ultimately focused on a 1961 rehearsal tape) had to be suitable for a closing-night premiere at the 2011 Chicago Jazz Festival. And it had to justify a rare coming-together of top improvisers from the Windy City and the Big Apple-two of the cities Ra called home.

An electrifying hit at the festival, the nonet, since dubbed Living by Lanterns, turns in a more contained but still elevating performance of Ra’s music on New Myth/Old Science. Two dualities stand out: the smart pairing off of players in contrapuntal settings and the coolly synced drumming of Reed and New York counterpart Tomas Fujiwara. The Chicago cast also includes vibraphonist Adasiewicz, alto saxophonist Greg Ward, cellist Tomeka Reid, bassist Joshua Abrams and, on two cuts, electronics artist Nick Butcher. Guitarist Mary Halvorson, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock make up the Big Apple squad.

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