July 13, 2024


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CD review: Rufus Reid – Celebration 2022: Video, CD cover

The great bassist Rufus Reid has long established himself as one of the most important stylists on his instrument. Reid hasn’t been one to stick to one lane, however. He has stretched his musical capabilities far into the ranges of composition and arranging, making his music a confluence of jazz and classical sounds. His album Celebration showcases Reid’s command as an instrumentalist and writer, as his Out Front Trio performs with and without the Sirius Quartet.

As a bassist, Reid has been a member of some legendary ensembles, both with famous leaders, like Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon, and as leader himself. Reid had never studied big band arranging but was intrigued by the process and wanted to get further involved. This led to his enrollment in the BMI Composers Workshop in 2000, a course that turned his head around, providing a myriad of information about writing for ensembles of all sorts.

Reid was asked to bring his quintet to a Texas performance nearly 12 years ago. The venue did not have the funds to pay the group, leading Reid to invite two musicians he had grown to know in efforts of creating a new trio. Pianist Steve Allee became a friend during Jamie Aebersold workshops, where Reid and Allee each taught. They shared interests in composing, arranging, and wine. Reid learned to appreciate drummer Duduka Fonseca’s work around the New York scene. Reid invited the two to rehearse and play the Texas gig, where they really clicked as an ensemble, thus becoming the Out Front Trio. They went on to record two albums for Motema Records.

In 2016, Reid was invited to record a vinyl only album for Newvelle Records. When asked what kind of project that he had in mind, Reid suggested recording his trio and adding the world-renowned Sirius Quartet on a number of pieces. Reid heard and had been impressed by the string quartet at a program where the group augmented a jazz ensemble. He knew that they would work well with this chamber jazz project. The recording was released in 2017.

The pieces recorded have now been remastered and re-sequenced for digital and CD release. Reid reunited his trio, this time utilizing the wonderful Kenneth Salters on drums, along with the Sirius String Quartet for pieces by himself and Allee that bookend Celebration.

The recording begins with the title track, an irresistibly buoyant piece that was adapted from Reid’s quintet book that shows his ability at making the strings swing. The trio takes a spirited romp through friend and collaborator Cedar Walton’s “Cedar’s Blues,” Reid adding an elongated solo presence over Walton’s harmonic framework. Reid’s “This I Ask of You” is inspired by John Coltrane’s musical influence, which can be heard in the melodic movement that is gorgeously carried by the strings. Coltrane’s presence can be heard in Reid’s “It’s Time To Shout It Out,” which takes inspiration from the saxophonist’s “Resolution” from A Love Supreme.

Reid’s “Celestial Dance” is one of his favored vehicles, having performed it in many contexts. Here the waltz-like piece shines with the aid of the string quartet. The mesmerizing “Tranescape” is another Reid tribute to Coltrane, this one leaning towards the meditative beauty of the saxophonist’s ballads with singer Johnny Hartman. The title of Allee’s “Tippin’” is a jazz colloquialism meaning “feeling good,” the music certainly sounding sublime with dancing strings and piano, which is followed by an effervescent trio take of Reid’s “You Make Me Smile.”

The bassist was introduced to Victor Feldman’s “Falling In Love” by his former employer, Stan Getz. Done in a different key, the piece sounds perfect for the blend of Reid’s bass and the string quartet. Bassist Sam Jones wrote “One for Amos” for his friend and club owner, Amos Kaune. The piece is a nice, twisty blues for the trio to explore. The program concludes with a revisit of Allee’s “The Rise of The Row,” a piece that explores composer Arnold Schoenberg’s tone row compositional device, thus blending contemporary classical and jazz in intriguing fashion.

Rising to the challenge of evolving one’s musical perspectives and abilities is important in the evolution of musicians. Rufus Reid has expanded his musical range and highlights his full potential on Celebration with his Out Front Trio and the Sirius Quartet.

The concept with the trio pairing with a string quartet is something I have wanted to record for many years. Writing for strings is like everything else, you must study the possibilities of those instruments and strings have an enormous spectrum of sound. I am sure my sound has evolved in this process.  Pianist, Steve Allee and drummer, Duduka Da Fonseca have played together well over 10+ years. When I heard the SIRIUS QUARTET for the first time, it was fantastic and I had to use them. The addition of drummer, Kenneth Salters, brought another dimension for the two pieces he plays on,- an interview with me said Rufus Reid.

1. Celebration (08:47)
2. Cedar’s Blues (03:19)
3. This I Ask of You (04:44)
4. It’s Time to Shout it Out (04:48)
5. Celestial Dance (05:19)
6. Tranescape (04:42)
7. Tippin’ (06:06)
8. You Make Me Smile (05:11)
9. Falling In Love (06:56)
10. One for Amos (04:45)
11. The Rise of the Row (09:50)

Rufus Reid – bass
Steve Allee – piano
Duduka Da Fonseca – drums (2-10)
Kenneth Salters – drums (1 & 11)
Sirius Quartet (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11):
Fung Chern Hwei – violin
Gregor Huebner – violin
Ron Lawrence – viola
Jeremy Harmon – cello

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