Chicagoan drummer-bandleader-composer-community builder Mike Reed’s sextet The Separatist Party was written and performed as a soundtrack to the ws essay, «The Lonely Death of George Bell» by N.R. Kleinfield, a 2015 story in the New York Times about the death of a resident named George Bell, a hoarder who passed away at home, his body undiscovered for nearly a week. Authorities could not locate next of kin and struggled to put the pieces of Bull’s life together, like so many other humans whose existence becomes ghost-like, passing the days utterly alone even within a city as bustling as New York.
This story resonated with Reed’s thoughts about isolation and crippling solitude. After the Covid-19 lockdowns and at the beginning of 2022, Reed gathered a new band that would put sound to those thoughts of forced seclusion. The Separatist Party included some of the most creative figures in Chicago’s experimental and improvised music community – cornetist Ben LaMar Gay and poet and spoken word artist Marvin Tate—both of whom worked on Reed’s 2017 project Flesh & Bone (482 Music), and who sporadically joined him in an improvising trio, along with the members of Chicago’s psych-synth Bitchin Bajas – reeds player-percussionist Rob Frye, guitar and synth player Cooper Crain and synth player Dan Quinlivan. Reed used this title for ad-hoc live performances, as well as a title for an old Flesh & Bone tune. It seemed to fit the context perfectly, echoing the loner persona all six musicians transmit at times.
The Separatist Party weaves together varied traditions and practices, from the world music of Don Cherry’s Organic Music Society (Caprice, 1973), continuing the spiritual firey music of Pharoah Sanders, the repetitive minimalism of Terry Riley, the motoric pulses of Krautrock, the extraterrestrial tones of Sun Ra, and the sensual soul of vintage Ethiopian music, all rooted in propulsive, funky grooves. But, most importantly, the inspired music and lyrics of Reed and the new sexter serve as a motivating factor in our turbulent era, tuning us all to the healing power of music that can still bring us together and unite us, if only for a short while.
This album is the first one in a three-album cycle that would involve a varied cast of musicians, dealing with themes of inner and outer human isolation. The second album, The Silent Hour, due out in September 2024, is inspired by a 2017 New York Times article about a Queens man who died in his apartment, anonymous and alone. The third album will reference boxes of items once owned by the late bassist Fred Hopkins, who was affiliated with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the influential Chicago’s South Side music collective, which recently found their way into Reed’s hands.
Mike Reed (drums, percussion), Rob Frye (tenor saxophone, flute, percussion), Cooper Crain (guitar, synthesizer), Dan Quinlivan (synthesizer), Marvin Tate (vocals), Ben LaMar Gay (cornet, flugelhorn, percussion)