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Tomeka Reid — 3 + 3
(Cuneiform Rune 525, 2024, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2024-06-20

3 + 3 Cover art

Cellist Tomeka Reid’s third album with her quartet ventures into somewhat different territory than the self-titled debut or Old New, presenting only three tracks, two of which run over fifteen minutes in length. This extra space affords much more room for improvisation for Reid and her collaborators, Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jason Roebke (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). The four have been working together for ten years or more now, and I suppose it’s a bit cliched to say that they’ve got an intuitive feel for their interactions — certainly there’s a seamless flow to all the music on 3+3. Each of the long pieces is presented with two titles (“Exploring Outward / Funambulist Fever” and “Turning Inward / Sometimes You Just Have to Run with It”), and they do feel like multiple compositions that run together, rather than having heads which are repeated with lengthy solo sections. The tune I think of as “Funambulist Fever” has a bouncy swinging melody, and its entry is preceded by a very free section that starts quietly. Halovorson’s guitar is instantly recognizable with its clean tone and liberal use of a pitch-bend pedal, and Roebke takes the lead for an emotive arco section before the melody enters. Fujiwara is superb on the drums, whether driving the energy or providing atmosphere. Cello is not a common instrument in jazz of any flavor, but Reid makes us wonder why it shouldn’t be, executing nimble lines and providing double-stops to flesh out the tonality. The shorter piece, “Sauntering with Mr. Brown,” is sandwiched between the two longer tracks, and starts out as a very tasty jazz march, and Fujiwara’s snare work is outstanding. The track builds to an intense ending with the cello providing a wall of notes — this is my favorite part of the album. The last track, like the first, starts with sparse improvisation full of extended techniques on the cello, bass, or both, which builds up over the course of five minutes until they all reach a frenzy and the guitar takes over with a set of dense chords mangled by a granular delay effect. This proves to be the backing to what I think of as the first part of “Sometimes You Just Have to Run with It,” a tune with a sweeping melody and a loose form. After a crazy section where Fujiwara goes nuts over a riff, the quartet breaks into a double-time melody, providing a satisfying payoff to the escalating tension. 3+3 is an outstanding album, deserving of a place on the list of best jazz of the year if you’re inclined to categorize by genre — or simply on the Best of 2023 list.

Filed under: New releases, 2024 releases

Related artist(s): Mary Halvorson, Tomeka Reid, Tomas Fujiwara

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