Album reflects on the drummer and impresario’s experience being trapped with a mixed race band in a Neo-Nazi rally 
in Prevov, Czech Republic in 2009

Look out for a forthcoming Jazz Night in America from NPR Music coming this Fall featuring Reed’s Flesh & Bone ensemble playing at Chicago’s Constellation

Advance Critical Praise From
The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune,
Chicago Magazine, Chicago Reader, AllAboutJazz,
SomethingElse Reviews, 
and more 


Flesh & Bone represents the culmination of a journey drummer, composer, and bandleader Mike Reed never wanted to embark on, but delivered into the midst of a racially charged rally and subsequent riot in Prerov. Czech Republic he found himself with no choice. While on tour in tour with his quartet People, Places and Things in April of 2009 a conductor instructed the band that a scheduling change required them to change trains in order to make it to their final destination, Krakow. The group soon realized the conductor was less interested in helping them out than in dropping them into a very frightening situation. Skinheads surrounded the train station and the rally exploded into a street battle with attack dogs, tear gas, riot police and the band: two white and two black American musicians. Thanks to protection provided by local authorities, the musicians finally escaped harm and left for Poland. The ordeal occupied eight harrowing hours and illustrated a new iteration of racism rippling through Eastern Europe. It took years for Reed to fully process the experience, which haunted him.


“If I had an experience like that and didn’t create something out of it, I don’t think I would consider myself a true artist,” says Reed. “Going into the process I had no idea of what the point was, I just knew I needed to express something.” Eventually the composer conceived of a new project with the members of People, Places and Things—bassist Jason Roebke and saxophonists Tim Haldeman and Greg Ward—joined by two additional stalwarts from the Chicago improvised music scene: bass clarinetist Jason Stein and trumpeter Ben Lamar Gay. In September of 2015 the musicians traveled to New Orleans and holed up a rented apartment to develop the new pieces Reed has composed, working out arrangements and ideas during the day, and taking in the sounds and sights of the town by night. “We had the luxury of spending days working on the material in one of the most important cities for music,” explains Reed.

Finally, six years after the original encounter in Prerov, in November of 2015 Reed presented the debut of Flesh & Bone at the Art Institute of Chicago, part of the Extensions Out series curated by esteemed Chicago writer, gallerist, and scholar John Corbett. For the concert two veteran spoken word artists, Marvin Tate and Kevin Coval, joined the sextet. Over the next year and a half the group refined the material and Coval’s presence led to a separate project, putting the vocal focus on the singular imagery and phrasing of Tate, who drew upon texts he’d written separately, but were selected to fit the spirit of the endeavor. “I edited it to make it fit into the larger ideas of what I was feeling,” says Reed. For example, he says, “In ‘First Reading:


The new pieces advance the high-level, blues-imbued interplay that marks the aesthetic essence of People, Places and Things, as four remarkable horn players elucidate charts both ebullient and somber, raucous and elegant, and summon the spirit of Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus with thoroughly contemporary language and explosive energy. The music bristles with “the weight of rage,” to quote Tate from “Call Off Tomorrow.”  One notable exception is the album’s closing track, “Scenes From My Next Life.” The piece is a dynamic, multilingual collage that Reed pieced together from various outtakes, live recordings, and unfinished snippets layered with his own bass playing and spoken word fragments collected from an international cast of speakers discussing their dreams in their native tongues. (He intends to release a digital-only album of similar material in the near future).

The program of music skirts any direct and obvious narrative references to the Czech experience, but rather looks at larger questions that the experience raised. Since Reed conceived of the project a series of populist movements such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president has added a frightening resonance to the effort. “The fact that ideas of nationalism and scapegoating have been resurgent on such a large scale is terrifying,” says Reed. “The sensationalism of my story now doesn’t seem all that. The religious intolerance and the increased incidents affecting people of color at the hands of the authorities has, of course, defined new moments of inequality in America and all around the world, but I think that a lot of young people of color and white liberals felt the deep pains of otherness in the truths that the election uncovered. The boogie man that your parents warned you about does exist.”



Flesh & Bone shines its light through a fog of bewilderment and outrage — moving from Mingus-esque miniature arrangements to open-air improvisations to the occasional splash of spoken-word poetry.” – The New York Times

“[Flesh and Bone] fuses Roscoe Mitchell’s pungent angularity, Sun Ra’s space blues, and Duke Ellington’s swooning romance into expressions of hope and resilience” – The Chicago Reader

“Reed’s “Flesh & Bone” stands as some of the most tautly muscular work he has created.” – The Chicago Tribune

“this is one of the most fully-realized efforts in Reed’s burgeoning discography.” – AllAboutJazz

“it’s impossible to overstate the importance of its message at this critical time. But even if you don’t get the message, the music brings more than enough flair to stand on its own.”
– SomethingElse Reviews

“If the best jazz is born of trauma, Mike Reed’s Flesh and Bone is an extreme example.” – ChicagoMag



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