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***Long before the pandemic, Mike Reed had been thinking about isolation, haunted by 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. In January 2022, Reed gathered a group of some of the most creative figures in Chicago’s experimental and improvised music community to put sound to those thoughts of forced seclusion: cornetist Ben LaMar Gay, poet and spoken word artist Marvin Tate, and members of Bitchin Bajas (Rob Frye, Cooper Crain, and Dan Quinlivan). Together, they called the new group and its resulting album The Separatist Party, echoing the loner persona all six musicians transmit at times. It’s the first installment of a three-album cycle involving a varied cast of musicians, dealing with themes of inner and outer human isolation.
The six musicians coalesced into an exciting new ensemble commingling a wide array of styles and influences into a groove-oriented expression of communion in the face of crippling solitude. One can glean wisps of Don Cherry’s Organic Music conception, the ecstatic fire of Pharoah Sanders, the cycling minimalism of Terry Riley, the motoric rhythms of Krautrock, the exploratory tones of Sun Ra, and clipped soul of vintage Ethiopian music within The Separatist Party, but no single element arrives wholesale.
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