Phil Freeman, Stereogum

Tomeka Reid pops up again on this duo album, recorded with alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella. They’re both Chicago-based, and this is a tribute to the Midwestern avant-garde of the 1970s, specifically taking inspiration from the creative relationship between Julius Hemphill and Abdul Wadud. Wadud’s cello, used in place of a bass, made Hemphill’s legendary album Dogon A.D. into a stark, forbidding mood piece, adding a chamber music feel to his bluesy shouts, Baikida Carroll’s crying trumpet, and drummer Phillip Wilson’s relentless, almost military beat. Hemphill and Wadud continued to work together for years, and the cellist also collaborated with Arthur Blythe on several of his early records. Mazzarella and Reid capture their spirit well on the opening track here, but as the album goes on they reveal that they’ve got plenty of their own ideas, too. The combination of saxophone and cello might seem a little minimal on its surface, but there’s a lot of depth here.

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