JAZZ | Peter Margasak
Over the past few years, cellist Tomeka Reid has become an increasingly important part of the Chicago jazz and improvised-music community, playing in several high-profile groups, including Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly, Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble, the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, and the AACM’s Great Black Music Ensemble. Last summer the Chicago Jazz Ensemble commissioned her to write music for a Millennium Park concert honoring pianist Randy Weston, but that’s been one of the few endeavors where she’s had more than a supporting role.
Another is her excellent string trio Hear in Now, a leaderless ensemble with Italian bassist Silvia Bolognesi and New York violinist and vocalist Mazz Swift. The group made its local debut at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2010, nearly a year after its first show. That gig, set up by an Italian promoter, was at the Woma Jazz Festival in northern Italy; the three women had never met, let alone played together. “It was a whirlwind of a trip. We arrived on the day of the concert, rehearsed, played the gig that night, and then flew home early the next morning,” Reid says.
“We just really clicked personality-wise and had such a blast playing together, so we thought, why not continue making music together—even with the obvious challenge that none of us lived near each other.” The group has finally released its impressive self-titled debut on Italian label Rudi Records, and it includes compositions by all three members. Some are meticulously arranged, alternating between ethereal, levitating melodies and briskly swinging, extroverted postbop; others are texture-oriented free improvisations that sound surprisingly like classical music. Everyone uses a wide variety of techniques—their individual parts undergo constant metamorphosis—to create a rich ensemble sound.
Hear in Now has no shows planned for Chicago, though the group has a string of European dates in June. But Reid has a working trio here with bassist Joshua Abrams and guitarist Matt Schneider, plus exciting new projects that include a duo with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and a trio with cheap-electronics whiz Nick Butcher and New York drummer Tomas Fujiwara (the latter group has a recording session planned around a show at the Whistler on Tue 5/1). In April she’ll launch a weekly solo engagement at the Bronzeville Coffee House (528 E. 43rd) on Sundays from 1-3 PM.
PUNK | Leor Galil
Super Minotaur fuel the sunny, fuzzy surf-pop songs on their debut full-length, Dead Dino, with the speed and adrenaline of hardcore punk. Going fast is something the Chicago-based trio is good at—the album is only their second recording, but it comes hard on the heels of their first, a demo cut in December.
Guitarist-vocalist Shane Gettig and drummer Adam Shead played in a band called Livid Kids as high schoolers in South Bend, Indiana, so this isn’t their first rodeo together. After graduating last summer, Shead came to Columbia College to study jazz percussion. Gettig didn’t leave Indiana, and until recently he was unemployed. “All I did was hang out with my girlfriend, smoke weed with the friends that stayed back, and write songs,” he says.
One of those songs was “Phantom Brat,” recorded in October, which became the first Super Minotaur tune—the lead track on their three-song demo. Gettig and Shead recorded the others in South Bend during Columbia’s winter break, but Gettig is in Chicago so often that the group ended up making Dead Dino here—with Gettig’s best friend, Leni Juric, aboard as their bassist, they cut it in a day at a Columbia practice space in late January. The album is the first release for a local label called Cold Slice Cassettes, and Super Minotaur will play a show to celebrate it at the Empty Bottle on Tue 3/20.
METAL | Philip Montoro
Local extreme-metal deviants Lord Mantis released their second full-length, Pervertor, on Tuesday. Despite the diseased and decrepit look of its amazingly blasphemous artwork (by Justin Bartlett, who also did Dragged Into Sunlight’s Hatred for Mankind), the album puts me in mind of a huge rampaging machine from the Matrix movies. Guitarist-vocalist Andrew Markuszewski has explained (in a hilarious NPR interview) that he’s by and large responsible for its occasional oddly mechanical time signature and outpourings of demented sludge. He joined the band after the other members—bassist-vocalist Charlie Fell (who’s played with Markuszewski in Nachtmystium), drummer Bill Bumgardner (also of Indian), and guitarist Greg Gomer—had written most of 2009’s Spawning the Nephilim, but for Pervertor he was involved from the get-go. He seems to have given Lord Mantis’s twisted black metal a more obsessive rhythmic drive, with fewer stops and starts, as well as a slight industrial feel—but the latter could also be because Sanford Parker‘s production (he worked on both records) has evolved in that direction.
What gets me are the bursts of seesawing, lurching rhythms, more violent than queasy—sometimes the band thrashes like a helicopter entering ground resonance, about to shake itself apart. And I like the ugly sheen of distortion on the vocals—they complement the guitar sound better on this record, even when they’re hair-raisingly high in the mix. I listen to some metal that would scare the paint off a lighthouse, but a few of the screams in “Septichrist” and “At the Mouth” still give me the willies.
Spawning the Nephilim came out on Chicago label Seventh Rule, but for Pervertor Lord Mantis signed to the U.S. wing of Candlelight Records, a much larger operation. They’re looking to tour more, and are shopping for a booking agent so they can hit the road this spring—Bumgardner says the schedules of their members’ better-established bands won’t be a problem. So far Lord Mantis haven’t played in Chicago nearly enough, but they do have a show Fri 4/6 at Cobra Lounge.