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Mike Reed’s People Places & Things: A New Kind of Dance

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Like Ornette Coleman, whom drummer-composer Mike Reed eulogizes in his liner notes, People Places & Things has always staked out a soulful, melodic side of experimental jazz. But it’s never been quite as soulful or melodic as it is on A New Kind of Dance, and certainly never bundled with as much joy.

As Reed says, A New Kind of Dance is “intended to inspire or allude to dancing.” That makes groove a priority, and the album’s opening (title) track bursts in with one that’s straight out of late-’60s R&B. Reed’s pounding drums and Jason Roebke’s thudding bass are helped along by ragged horns (Greg Ward on alto saxophone, Tim Haldeman on tenor) and the hot dance piano of none other than Matthew Shipp, who offers his clandestine lyricism on four of the album’s 10 tracks-even channeling his inner Horace Silver for the funky “Fear Not of Man.” Another three cuts feature trumpeter Marquis Hill, who contributes his warmth and pocket to the New Orleans-style polyphony of “Kwela for Taylor” and a slightly raw lyricism to the album’s slow dance, Billy Strayhorn’s “Star Crossed Lovers.”

Joy radiates from the A New Kind of Dance, but it covers multiple moods within that joy. “Markovsko Horo” is a horah, complete with Eastern European darkness and a slow, melancholy intro, and “Reesie’s Waltz” is a rumination in 6/8 that features Shipp’s most “out” solo (albeit one with a lyrical logic of its own). In both cases, though, there’s a groove (oom-pah on the former, persistent and precise waltz on the latter) that seems to demand motion-and with it an emotional release. Then there’s “Wonderland,” which evokes dance in only the most abstract sense: It veers from no time to vicious swing, with mellow half-time horn from Ward. It’ll make you move anyway.

Originally Published