A1/1. Your Soul
A2/2. A Low Frequency Nightmare
A3/3. We Just Came to Dance
A4/4. Floating With an Intimate Stranger
B1/5. Rahsaan In the Serengeti
B2/6. Hold Me, Hold Me
B3/7. Our Own Love Language
B4/8. One Of Us
B5/9. Eric's Theme
For fans of: Don Cherry, Sun Ra, Terry Riley, Roland Kirk, AACM, Bitchin Bajas, Ben LaMar Gay
Chicago drummer, bandleader, and composer Mike Reed presents his new work "The Separatist Party", co-released by We Jazz Records and Astral Spirits on 27 October 2023. The album features Ben LaMar Gay, Bitchin Bajas and Marvin Tate, and it's written and performed as a sound track to the news essay, “The Lonely Death of George Bell” by N.R. Kleinfield.
Long before the Covid-19 pandemic, Mike Reed had been thinking about isolation, haunted by a 2015 story in the New York Times about the death of a resident named George Bell. He was a hoarder who passed away at home, his body undiscovered for nearly a week. Authorities couldn’t locate next of kin and struggled to put the pieces of his life together, like so many other humans whose existence becomes ghost-like, passing the days utterly alone even within a city as bustling as New York—a kind of unofficial quarantine.
After a couple of years in which personal interactions were limited, if not prohibited, Reed gathered a group of musicians to put sound to those thoughts of forced seclusion at the beginning of January 2022. He brought together some of the most creative figures in Chicago’s experimental and improvised music community, cornetist Ben LaMar Gay and poet and spoken word artist Marvin Tate—both of whom worked on his 2017 project Flesh and Bone, and who sporadically joined him in an improvising trio—along with the members of Bitchin Bajas (multi-instrumentalists Rob Frye, Cooper Crain, and Dan Quinlivan). He called the new group the Separatist Party, a name he had occasionally used for ad hoc live performances, as well as a title for an old Flesh and Bone tune. It seemed to fit the context perfectly, echoing the loner persona all six musicians transmit at times.
Beginning with a clutch of tunes originally composed for Reed’s old, disbanded quintet Loose Assembly, they collaborated on and recorded new material during that week at Constellation, the celebrated multi-arts venue in Chicago that Reed has owned and operated since 2013. The six musicians coalesced into an exciting new ensemble commingling a wide array of styles and influences into a groove-oriented expression of communion in the face of crippling solitude.
The music draws upon a raft of influences, weaving together varied traditions and practices within a groove-oriented attack to forge something entirely new. One can glean wisps of Don Cherry’s Organic Music conception, the ecstatic fire of Pharoah Sanders, the cycling minimalism of Terry Riley, the motoric rhythms of Krautrock, the exploratory tones of Sun Ra, and clipped soul of vintage Ethiopian music within the Separatist Party’s music, but no single element arrives wholesale. Rather, the musicians have melded and transformed ideas from around the globe and across decades into a propulsive brew that says plenty about the turbulent era we find ourselves in, turning to the healing power of music to unite us, if only for a short while.
The Separatist Party is the first installment of a three-album cycle involving a varied cast of musicians, dealing with themes of inner and outer human isolation. In his own life, Reed has been a community-builder, both through making music and presenting it. He views bandleading as a creative act, as the unexpected synchronicity of the Separatist Party’s disparate members attests.