On the Road with Cellist Tomeka Reid


Improvising cellist Tomeka Reid’s most recent recording is The Mouser (Relative Pitch), a collaboration with drummer Filippo Monico.

(Photo: © Enid Farber Fotography)

You put out a record, Signaling, with alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella. Is that duo still active?

Not so much since I moved to New York in 2016, but last year we toured. I’m glad I get to travel to Europe a lot, but I’ve been curious about other places, too. So in 2018, I planned a tour for Nick and I, to Beirut, Istanbul, Alexandria, Cairo and Addis Ababa. We also played the Bergamo Film Festival in Italy, and did a live score for an experimental film, which we repeated last July at Millennium Park in Chicago.

With all this on the road, what do you do at home?

My quartet with Mary Halvorson, Jason Roebke and Tomas Fujiwara is releasing our next record on Cuneiform this summer. We’re playing a set at the Jazz Gallery on April 26, and the second set will be a CD release party for The Mouser, with Tomas subbing for Filippo. Also the Vision Festival—I’m playing in a trio with Andrew Cyrille drumming and Beatrice Capote dancing. I’m in a new group Seven Poets Trio, with Tomas and Patricia Brennan, a great vibes player, and a new ensemble with Gerald Cleaver.

After this film festival, I go to Florida with Hear In Now—that’s Silvia Bolognesi on bass and violinist Mazz Swift—to Big Ears, to South Africa with Nicole, and to my alma mater, the University of Maryland, for a project with my seven-piece Stringtet. Then the Counterflows Festival in Glasgow, where, besides the solo set, I’m in a trio with Nicole and pianist Alexander Hopkins. We go from there to Café Oto in London.

Is it wearing to be traveling so much?

The travel is catching up with me a little bit, but I enjoy it. I’m trying to learn to say no, but I’m asked to do such exciting projects. Go out with the Art Ensemble? With Braxton? Nicole and I have worked together a long time, and I love playing her music. Then there’s my own stuff. I have been hitting the road pretty hard, though, and I’m looking to have a better balance.

Are you doing the String Summit again?

Our fifth edition is May 2 through 5, at four Chicago venues: the Arts Club, Constellation, Elastic Arts and the Hungry Brain. Akua Dixon will be the honoree, and Sara Caswell, a Grammy-nominated jazz violist, is coming. I try to showcase a spectrum of improvisational styles, not all “out” or all “in,” and hope the musicians will bring original music, instead of focusing on standards.

I just won a big award from the Foundation of Contemporary Arts; those funds will help me with this festival. The following week, the Artifacts Trio with Nicole and Mike Reed will play Constellation. We’ve just recorded our second record.

It’s a lot, I know, but I just feel you’ve got to get it out there. You just have to do it. I’m a busy body; I like doing things. You can’t wait on anything. DB

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