Three masters will light up Constellation

This weekend one of the most intensely anticipated events of the jazz season will unfold in one of the most important rooms in the city.

It's a rare occasion indeed when trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, multi-instrumentalist Douglas Ewart and drummer Mike Reed meet on a single stage. Each tours the globe steadily in various settings, making their convergence here a near-miracle of both scheduling and creative programming.

That they'll be playing Constellation, the increasingly busy arts center in the old Viaduct Theater building, on North Western Avenue, only underscores the significance of the occasion. For Reed opened the place less than a year ago, quickly making it a nexus for adventurous musicians of various kinds and for dance, as well, in the form of events presented by Links Hall.

Even Reed seems slightly disbelieving that his emerging partnership with Smith and Ewart advanced from the talking stages a few years ago to a two-night engagement at Constellation and a forthcoming recording.


Purchase your Officially Licensed UConn National Championship Gear HERE!

It all started when Reed was leading his much lauded People, Places & Things band at the Vision Festival, in New York, in 2010, says the drummer. Smith and Gunter "Baby" Sommer played right after Reed's ensemble, "and I think (Smith) might have heard something I'd done, and he said, 'We should get together and do something at some point.'

"I took that as him just being nice," adds Reed, referring to a widely esteemed musician who last year was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music.

"After that summer, I saw Douglas (Ewart) at the (Chicago) Jazz Festival, and he said, 'I was talking to Wadada – he wanted to get together.'"

Apparently Smith wasn't "just being nice" after all. The idea percolated for about a year, until the three musicians finally booked a date last year at the University of Chicago, at which point Reed nonchalantly suggested that perhaps they should go into the recording studio when everyone was in town. Just to see what might happen.

"They both came in with some compositions, and I was kind of unprepared," remembers Reed. "They said, 'What do you have?'

"'Uh, I didn't think we were actually going to do this,'" Reed responded, thinking: "OK, here we go."

The session went well enough that the threesome booked this Friday and Saturday night's appearances at Constellation, a partnership between musical eminences Smith and Ewart and a younger musician-entrepreneur who's building on their legacies. Which poses certain challenges once the music-making begins.

"It's always tricky dealing with veterans like that and trying to be both respectful but also not timid," says Reed of their interaction. "That's a trick. But they were both really gracious, so that makes it a lot easier."

As for the sound of their work, "There's been a lot of space in it, as opposed to things I've done with somebody like Roscoe," adds Reed, referring to the ferociously focused multi-instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell.

"Who knows what will happen (this) weekend, but there's been a lot of use of space, a lot of sound spectrum. … It will be interesting to see what will and won't happen."

Whatever ensues, it's noteworthy that it's happening at Constellation, a unique venue with multiple performance spaces that's still in the midst of defining itself, for Reed opened it just last April. Thus far Constellation has presented an appealing and far-reaching lineup of concerts, including performances by pianist Matthew Shipp, the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, the George Freeman/Mike Allemana Quartet, Matt Ulery's Loom, Tim Berne's Snakeoil, Peter Brotzmann with Joe McPhee, Roscoe Mitchell with Reed, plus Rob Mazurek, Nicole Mitchell, Craig Taborn, Dee Alexander and many more.

When the powerhouse new quartet of Jack DeJohnette, Henry Threadgill, Roscoe Mitchell and Larry Gray needed a place to rehearse in preparation for their opening-night performance at last year's Chicago Jazz Festival, they chose Constellation.

All of these events "add to the persona and the mystique and the story and the look of the place" Reed believes. "Venues have their own personalities, and that's what they carry with them. You can meet people around the world, and they'll tell you about some place. Maybe you never met them at some venue, but they know it as intimately as you do. …

"I've been traveling a lot around the world, and people totally know about (Constellation)," adds Reed. "I'll be in Italy, and someone will tell me: 'So and so is playing in your place tonight.'"

But Reed is quick to emphasize that Constellation's future depends on how the arts community responds to a venue designed to champion new, often provocative ideas in music. So far, so good, he says.

"It's going really well," says Reed. "I mean, the things that I'm mostly concerned with are not about how we're reaching the audience or the booking. It's: 'I have a leaky roof.' They're the mundane things of owning any business, but that's good. … That means I'm not worried about the content….

ct-wadada-leo-smith-mike-reed-chicago-jazz-20140227
To comment on courant.com articles, you must register as a digital member and be logged in to enter your comment below. To report spam or abuse, hover over the comment and select the Flag option in the right corner. For guidelines on commenting, please read our Terms of Service
Connect with the Hartford Courant to get articles like this and more.
News Coverage on Argonne National Laboratory - CTNow
RSS feeds allow Web site content to be gathered via feed reader software. Click the subscribe link to obtain the feed URL for this page. The feed will update when new content appears on this page.

Argonne National Laboratory

A collection of news and information related to Argonne National Laboratory published by this site and its partners.

Top Argonne National Laboratory Articles see all

Displaying items 1-5
  • Ben-chieh Liu, taught economics at Chicago State, 1938-2014

     Ben-chieh Liu, taught economics at Chicago State, 1938-2014
    An economist and longtime professor at Chicago State University, Ben-chieh Liu conducted groundbreaking research into the concept of quality of life.
  • Argonne gets $2 million federal grant for hybrid fuel cell development

    Argonne gets $2 million federal grant for hybrid fuel cell development
    Argonne National Laboratory received a $2 million federal grant to help develop hybrid fuel cells as part of a move to diversify away from traditional electricity-generating power plants and better incorporate renewable sources of energy, such as wind and...

    New sensors will scoop up 'big data' on Chicago

    New sensors will scoop up 'big data' on Chicago
    The curled metal fixtures set to go up on a handful of Michigan Avenue light poles later this summer may look like delicate pieces of sculpture, but researchers say they'll provide a big step forward in the way Chicago understands itself by observing...

    Chicago is your friendly Big Brother

    Chicago is your friendly Big Brother
    This summer, data scientists and architects in Chicago are working on a new form of civic infrastructure: highly visible, aesthetically pleasing, one-foot-square boxes mounted on light poles that track environmental conditions around them. If this is...

    Using krypton gas to date the age of ancient ice cores

    Scientists say they have developed a means of accurately dating Earth's oldest and densest polar ice by analyzing the composition of krypton gas trapped within ancient air bubbles. In a study published Monday in the journal PNAS, researchers used the...