Tomeka Reid Quartet Credit: Jasmine Kwong

Next time you think you’re busy, look at Tomeka Reid’s schedule. Even though the cellist was already committed to touring Europe with Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, she just assumed the position of Darius Milhaud Distinguished Visiting Professor at Mills College in Oakland, California (even though she’s based in Queens, New York). And when she’s not racking up the miles to meet playing and teaching engagements, she’s squeezing in a tour to support the release of Old New (Cuneiform), the recent second album by the Tomeka Reid Quartet. When the group’s self-titled debut album was released in 2015, they were a band of rising stars. Chicago-based bassist Jason Roebke was already a bandleader as well as a first-call accompanist for local ensembles led by Mike Reed, Josh Berman, and Jason Stein. New York-based guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara were already leading their own ensembles, playing in each other’s bands, collaborating with bassist Michael Formanek in the collective trio Thumbscrew, and working separately or together with Taylor Ho Bynum, Tom Rainey, and Ingrid Laubrock. But now, between Reid’s prestigious new gigs, Fujiwara’s superb and highly acclaimed Triple Double project, and Halvorson’s recent MacArthur Foundation grant, it’s fair to say that the stars have ascended into the firmament. Reid’s compositions on Old New exploit the skills and versatility of each musician: Fujiwara’s ability to shift from skipping brushwork to full-on barrage; Halvorson’s capacity to shift between blunt, distorted blasts and a delay-multiplied drizzle of squelchy tones; Roebke’s easy flips between party-time pulses and gravely dignified solos; and her own unerringly intricate pizzicato playing and singing bowed leads. But what makes this record sound like the work of a real band and not just a bunch of hotshots is the way each musician works behind the others, adding accents and leaving spaces that make their mates sound even better.   v