Tomeka Reid

NPR’s Kevin Whitehead expresses brow-furrowing confusion when he hears someone peg jazz cello as a novel idea. It’s not— there have been cellists experimenting on the jazz scene since the better part of the 1950’s. But just because the concept of a cellist ripping through some  standards isn’t new, doesn’t mean that you need to dismiss it as same old, same old. Ever heard of Tomeka Reid?

The D.C.-born musician has been active since her high school days, and after she graduated from the University of Maryland she taught middle- and high-school orchestra. As a cellist, many would assume she had a readymade career in classical music— she herself did, too! But she was so attracted to jazz and the freedoms of improvisation that she couldn’t help but throw herself  headlong into the collaborative spirit that highlights the twentieth century’s greatest musical innovation.

Since 2012 she has been involved with three main projects: Hear in Now (2012), Tomeka Reid Quartet (2015), and Artifacts (2015). Her second album really put her on the map, and was profiled in the NPR program Fresh Air. Quartet provided something that was fresh without coming off as novelty music. Remember that Reid is a seriously talented cellist and that cellos aren’t new to jazz. This combination means that as she crafts her soundscape with her harmonic interplay with her bandmates, she’s paying an homage to a forgotten cellic past— and doing it well.
Her work takes on a very exploratory quality. The bandmates are all feverishly searching for their next rhythmic groove. But they sail into these uncharted waters with such bravery and technical skill that the listener never needs to worry about being completely lost. They’ll always come back to find you and bring your that much closer to paradise.

from Emmanuel Garcia


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