As WKDU’s resident jazz weirdo (at least until Marcel—er, the Night Fly, returns from his Southern Californian sabbatical), I feel some responsibility to keep the fine followers of WKDU abreast of Philadelphia’s jazz goings on. Fortunately, Ars Nova Workshop, longtime supporters of some of the best jazz and improvised music Philadelphia has to offer, recently announced a couple of killer shows for the month of January: the Tomeka Reid Quartet this Thursday, January 7 at the Art Alliance, and Nels Cline/Larry Ochs/Gerald Cleaver Trio at Boot & Saddle on January 15.
Tomeka Reid is a Chicago-based cellist-about-town, popping up in all sorts of engaging jazz and classical contexts (Dee Alexander’s Evolution Ensemble, Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble/Strings, Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly…). However, her recent debut as a leader, Tomkea Reid Quartet, has been making waves for very good reason. All of the instrumentalists (Reid is joined by Mary Halvorson on guitar, Tomas Fujiwara on drums, and Jason Roebke on bass) on this album are world-class, and clearly have a strong rapport with one another. However, I think I’m most taken with Mary Halvorson’s performances on this album. Halvorson, whose 2015 solo record Meltframe is also excellent, has a singular approach to the electric guitar; not only is her soloing harmonically adventurous and engaging, but she makes excellent use of effects in a way that contributes, instead of detracts, from the sonic whole. The interplay between she and Tomeka is also top-notch—throughout the record, their parts weave into and out of each other beautifully.
Nels Cline, meanwhile, is not only a well-known name in the improvised music community, playing with everyone from Julian Lage to Medeski, Martin & Wood, but has also played alongside rockers ranging from Wilco to Mike Watt to Lydia Lunch. Meanwhile, both Cleaver and Ochs have straddled the line between more traditional forms, free jazz, and noise through their careers. This performance, notably being held in South Philly’s Boot & Saddle, will likely continue mining this fertile intersection of noise and improvisation.