Artifacts “…and then there’s this”

I already wrote quite a bit about this trio of Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, and Mike Reed when Foxy Digitalis premiered “Soprano Song,” but with as much as I’ve listened to and dug into …and then there’s this, I could write a book. Every time I listen, though, I come back to the AACM’s (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music) motto, “Ancient to the Future.” All three members of Artifacts have served on AACM’s board and across their creative practices, they create work that embodies this idea of celebrating Black culture and the history of jazz while pushing it forward in new, exciting directions. …and then there’s this captures this spirit in a bottle, ratchets up the tension, and rockets into a new stratosphere to create an unforgettable soundworld that’s as original as it is effusive.

One thing that immediately stands out as opener “Pleasure Palace” explodes into the slipstream is that each one of these illustrious musicians will get plenty of moments to shine. More importantly, though, are how they intertwine their instruments and expressions to open new sonic spaces. “Pleasure Palace” is one of Reed’s pieces and his propulsive rhythms bound forward with Reid bouncing out foundational marks on her cello. Mitchell is flying, though, like a hummingbird zipping from flower to flower. One of the ingenious aspects of …and then there’s this is the way it’s sequenced. “Pleasure Palace” is instantly engaging and easy to swallow, but once my head was bopping along in rhythm, Artifacts had their hooks in.

Moving through these ten pieces, the landscape gets wilder by the minute. “Blessed” (written by Mitchell) pops along with a similar groove to “Pleasure Palace,” but it heads straight toward the stars. Reid weaves magic into her cello solo, adding such an emotive power to each note that they instantly flicker. The way she approaches passages like this gets me every time. She’s got such a distinct, important voice and pushes her instrument into places nobody has ever heard while still sliding seamlessly into ensemble pieces like this. I’ll continue hoping for a Tomeka Reid solo joint, but until then we can hear her in rare form when she’s with like-minded luminaries like Mitchell and Reed.

“In Response To,” one of Reid’s originals, gets into an astral space right away with Mitchell’s flute taking on a hard-edged timbre that slices right through the night sky. She plays with ferocity, taking runs into the light to suck up some more energy before spiraling it back at the moonless void. Reed, as he always does, has these subtle touches imbued throughout his metronomic beats that add life to the piece, but also a sort of nuanced bombast that, when focused on, become absolute wildfire. He dances around the center with Reid’s searching bass lines following clues off into the trees all while Mitchell levitates with a roughhewn whimsy. Reid’s other piece, “Song For Helena,” encapsulates a similar spirit, but flows in more a restrained fashion. There’s some mesmerizing interplay between Reid and Mitchell throughout, with Reed adding the perfect, understated accompaniment, but I can’t help be reminded of the more vulnerable, quiet moments of Julius Hemphill and Abdul Wadud’s collaborations, especially when Reid starts bowing the strings. Incredible.

I already wrote extensively about Artifacts rendition of Muhal Richard Abrams’ “Soprano Song” so I won’t dig into it again, but it remains one of the highlights on an album full of them. Closing the set is the short, hot romp of Roscoe Mitchell’s “No Side Effects.”  …and then there’s this is multidimensional, borne from the creative space the AACM has worked so hard to share and create for decades, but cast in its own fire and occupying new, original zones to push the ongoing conversation forward. Ending with a new take on something from Roscoe – a piece, Reid points out, all three have likely played with him at one time or another – is the perfect exclamation. This stomping, reggae-infused rendering is jarring in the best way, obliterating what we think we know and showing anyone paying attention that the way ahead is pushing forward and that whatever boundaries try surrounding the legacy of jazz are there to be broken. …and then there’s this is a crucial new piece of that puzzle.

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