Mike Reed’s previous three PP&T outings were purposeful projects honoring Chicago jazz from the late ’50s and released in a two-year splurge. The drummer/composer — a longtime resident of the northern Chicago suburb of Evanstonâ€” says in the liner notes that the original plan for Clean on the Corner was to take his time. But three sessions and ten hours later, the disc was done. Perhaps not surprisingly, the best track finds Reed again reaching back for a vintage cover by Chicago composer John Jenkins, entitled “Sharon,” swinging hard-bop true to its original Blue Note release, with guest pianist Craig Taborn joining PP&T’s dual sax attack and Reed’s drumming providing the most obvious 21st-century update. Taborn also shines on “The Ephemeral Words of Ruth” (as wide-ranging as its title suggests), and longtime Reed cohort and cornetist Josh Berman brings warmth to the “House of Three Smiles” (an adaptation of a song written by another Reed colleague, vibest Jason Adasiewicz) and is the principal soloist on the closer, “Warming Down.”
The core piano-less quartet handles the first four songs, with the opener “The Lady Has A Bomb,” rich in the tradition of AACM Chicago, with altoist Greg Ward and tenor Tim Haldeman both squawking and squeaking an acrid blues that doesn’t lose sight of the melody. After a slightly Monk-ish cover of Roscoe Mitchell’s “Old,” Reed’s “December?” is laden with somber disdain, with the bow of bassist Jason Roebke’s drawing out the long dark of the days while Reed ruefully rustles the jingle bells. Throughout Clean On The Corner, Reed’s continuum of past, present and future remains open to artistry and fresh connections.