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Cellist Tomeka Reid – New Recording & Symphony Center

Chicago based cellist, composer and educator, Tomeka Reid has performed with such jazz Luminaries as Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell and Dee Alexander to name a few. As a composer she has been commissioned by the AACM, the Chicago Jazz Festival and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble and has had several opportunities to showcase her work abroad at festivals such as Umbria Jazz, An Insolent Noise and Vignola Jazz. She recently released her debut recording under her own name entitled Tomeka Reid Quartet and will be performing ahead of the Charles Lloyd Quartet this Friday April 21st at Chicago’s Symphony Center. We caught up with Reid to discuss her early musical influences and her latest release.

Chicago Jazz Magazine: Before we talk about your upcoming performance at Symphony Center let’s talk about your background. Did you grow up in a musical household?

Tomeka Reid: No. started playing in public school music program in Montgomery County Md.

Chicago Jazz Magazine: How did you first become interested in jazz music? Was there a particular group or groups that influenced you?

Tomeka Reid: Through my mentor Dr. Sais Kamalidiin and then upon moving to Chicago in 2000 and connecting with one of the leading improvising flute players of this century, Nicole Mitchell. I started listening to jazz more in college and learned about Stuff Smith and always thought it would be amazing to play improvised music. I learned about cellist Abdul Wadud and that really got me excited about improvising.

Chicago Jazz Magazine: The late David Baker was a revolutionary jazz educator and musician and played jazz cello with many different groups and settings over the years. Did you ever meet him or was he an influence in your playing or concept?

Tomeka Reid: I met him once at an IAJE conference. I am familiar with his literature and have worked with his method book for bass clef instruments. His concept of fretting on the cello has been very useful to me.

Chicago Jazz Magazine: You have performed with some of the world’s foremost improvised music masters such as Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell. Tell us about how you first started working with them and how they helped to shape the way you thought about your approach to your playing.

Tomeka Reid: I met Braxton in 2010 and performed in an opera of his. I was invited to perform with him by cornetist Taylor Ho-Bynum. In 2014 I was invited to do a second opera and also invited to participate as a member of his nonet. Most recently I have been invited to perform in his Zim Sextet. It's been pretty incredible to work with him in the smaller ensembles!! I met Roscoe while still a member of Mike Reeds loose Assembly. I got the privilege to perform with him in 2015 in a quartet setting that was pretty heavy! And this year he invited a string trio I co-lead, called Hear in Now to tour in Europe which was also amazing. I think in continuing with the AACM philosophy they have both encouraged me to be me and to express myself as truthfully in the music as possible.

Chicago Jazz Magazine: You have your first recording out under your own name appropriately titled, the Tomeka Reid Quartet. Did composing and arranging for your own group push you creatively as opposed to other projects you have worked on?

Tomeka Reid: Yes! Most of the compositions are my own so it forced me to share myself in a different way than strictly being a side person. It's also inspired me to keep writing for other projects as well.

Chicago Jazz Magazine: Tell us about who is in the group and how the concept for the recording came about?

Tomeka Reid: The band is Mary Halvorson on guitar, Tomas Fujiwara on drums and Jason Roebke on bass. I had had this collection of tunes for a while and I just wanted to get them recorded and out there. I recently started with the drummerless trio but decided to augment the group and add drums for the recording.

Chicago Jazz Magazine: You will be performing at Symphony Center in Chicago on April 21st ahead of the legendary saxophonist Charles Lloyd. Tell us about what people can expect to hear that evening and what how exciting it must be to debut at Symphony Center with a new recording and on the same bill as Charles Lloyd.

Tomeka Reid: Well it's definitely a true honor to share A bill with someone so amazing and to be asked to perform at one of the premier stages in Chicago. I've been to so many concerts there, I've walked past there so many times and I even worked at Symphony Center store at one point so to be able to perform as a music artist in the Hall on the main stage is a pretty amazing.

For more about the April 21st performance visit

To keep up to date with Tomeka’s upcoming performances and to purchase her latest release visit

#tomekareid #chicagojazzmagzine #cso #tomekareidquartet

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