Steve Reid, Kieran Hebden and Mats Gustafsson - Live at the South Bank (Smalltown Superjazz, 2011)
The great drummer Steve Reid enjoyed a fantastic career, playing with everyone from R&B singers to free jazz musicians. He recorded two wonderful albums in the 1970's, Novaand Rhythmatismbefore keeping a lower profile the remainder of the decade. In the 2000's he had a career renaissance, teaming up with the electronic musician Kieran Hebden to produce a number of albums that blurred the boundaries of jazz and electronic music. The two reunite here, joined by Swedish free-jazz saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, in this live performance recorded at the 2009 Meltdown Festival, which was curated by Ornette Coleman. This is a truly inspired performance, with the band performing six long improvisations, featuring Hebden's bubbling and zooming electronics and sampling and Reid's ever changing rhythms, which shift like dunes of sand in the desert wind. The wildcard is Gustafsson, who adds spice to the music, picking his spots carefully, accenting the duo and adding his own voice to the proceedings. He actually sits out for the entirety of the first track, Morning Prayer," where Hebden and Reid build a hypnotic trance of soundscapes and beats. When he begins to join in on the music, tentatively at first, then with more power and confidence, the music gains added steam, becoming an unstoppable force of uncatagorizable sound. Shifting from dark and brooding textures to exciting, heavy and powerful features, the double album unfolds in a continuous suite waxing and waning like the unstoppable tide. This unique and fascinating performance is highly recommended for progressive jazz and rock fans.