I profiled six jazz musicians for Michigan Avenue magazine in July, 2013. Here's a piece on Chicago jazz drummer Mike Reed.MIKE REED
Refurbishing jazz history and setting the stage for the next chapter.
“I grew up being a person of the daytime, but now I’m a person of the nighttime,” says Mike Reed. The drummer/composer/bandleader/presenter’s night-owl conversion took place in the late ’90s: Listening to WBEZ (which used to play jazz until 4 am), he’d hit a circuit of small venues, taking in (and often jamming in) live gigs. “It would be the [Green] Mill; it would be Bop Shop; it would be Velvet [Lounge]; it would be Rosa’s, the Deja Vu. There was a time when I could just do that every night.” It was in the sessions of that era that Reed soaked up the influence of players like Von Freeman drummer Michael Raynor, with whom he later took lessons. “He would always let me play first, and I got to play with the heavy guys who came through. It was great and also awful for me because I’d get my ass kicked.”
These days, the Evanston-bred 39-year-old (who has recorded with Roscoe Mitchell as well as Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra) is a bandleader in his own right. Part of the original intent for his People, Places & Things group was “rediscovering and repositioning lost moments of Chicago hard bop”—but in the context of a modern group. Chicago’s role in jazz of the late ’50s and ’60s is something that Reed keeps in mind, and he sees the benefits of the Windy City’s close-knit, creative community. “The energy comes from the people, not from the products.” Reed, a key figure in that community, maintains a dense schedule. His trio Sun Rooms jets to Brazil in August, and larger group Living By Lanterns plays Sardinia later that month. People, Places & Things has a new record out late this summer featuring six guests collaborating on pieces in Amsterdam (which is kind of a second home for Reed), and he’s also a member of the Chicago Jazz Festival planning committee.
More recently, he’s the prime mover behind Constellation, a new venue on Western Avenue with a name borrowed from a Chicago soul label of the ’60s. Focusing on progressive styles and improvisation, Constellation books everything from jazz to classical and electronic, filling the void of a “profile” venue. “There can’t be a weekend where there’s not jazz in there,” Reed explains.