July 13, 2024

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CD review: Rufus Reid with Sullivan Fortner – It’s the Nights I Like – 2024: Video, CD cover

The mastery of an instrument or a musical language doesn’t necessarily mean that a musician must be frivolous in performance with displays of their masterful technique or engagement in superfluous overplaying. Sometimes it is the restraint that shows the maturity and taste of a performer. Rufus Reid and Sullivan Fortner are musicians who have the easy ability to astonish but show their class in their control.

Of course, Reid has been acknowledged as one of the best bassists in jazz for decades, leaving him nothing more to prove. The heralded young pianist, Sullivan Fortner, has a maturity beyond his years and the pairing of the two allows for music making of the highest caliber. Their duo recording, It’s The Nights I Like, shows just what kind of magic can made without resorting to histrionics and letting the music shine.

Reid has long been making music with ensembles of all sizes, not limited to small groups but even for jazz orchestras that he composes for. His artistry has never been limited by ensemble and when he was invited to record an album for Elan Mehler and Newvelle Records in 2019, Reid decided to partner with Sullivan with whom he had been introduced a couple years before after the pianist had won the 2015 American Jazz Pianists Competition.

In July of 2019, the duo recorded an album at Eastside Sound in New York City that was released the next year on Newvelle. It’s The Nights I Like issues this material digitally for the first time along with two bonus tracks that were live streamed in concert on April 23, 2021.

The music the duo prepared is a mixture of Reid’s originals and standards or canonical pieces from jazz’s greatest composers, including Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Charlie Parker.

The recording begins with Reid’s “Always In The Moment,” a serene ballad where the bass and piano play a thoughtful counterpoint, which is followed by the bassist’s enticing waltz, “I Can’t Explain.” Reid and Fortner perform Charlie Parker’s playful “Big Foot” melody in unison before breaking into a strolling swing. Charles Mingus’s “Duke Ellington Sound of Love” pays homage to the great jazz composer and is led by Reid’s bold, resonant bass before Fortner settles in.

The pace quickens on the album’s track, an upbeat samba rhythm propelling the duo. Reid performs Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” solo, his woody bass sings a gorgeous basso profundo. From the later recording, Burwell and Parish’s standard “Sweet Loraine” is tender and coy but with a dash of mischief, while Reid’s “Reminiscing” is bluesy with a tasteful swagger.

Written for his son, Reid’s “The Meddler” is an eccentrically offbeat tune that could have come from the pen of Monk. Jimmy Rowles’s “The Peacocks” gets a beautiful rendition with both performers performing at their most connected. Reid’s fun “Come Out and Play” has the pair matching up in a unison game of keep up. The recording concludes with Eubie Blake’s “Memories of You,” done in a sedate but intriguing version with Reid’s bass in the lead.

While the sounds of contemporary jazz are full of tremendous musicians doing near impossible feats on their instrument, it is nice to be reminded of the magic in two great musicians listening to one another and taking time to make well-conceived songs on stage or recording. Rufus Reid and Sullivan Fortner have made a tremendous album on It’s The Nights I Like that’s statement bears true artistic weight.

1. Always in the Moment (4:32)
2. I Can’t Explain (5:49)
3. Big Foot (4:18)
4. Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love (4:42)
5. It’s the Nights I Like (2:57)
6. Sophisticated Lady (4:08)
7. Sweet Loraine (7:12)
8. Reminiscing (3:13)
9. The Meddler (4:31)
10. The Peacocks (5:16)
11. Come Out and Play (5:10)
12. Memories of You (2:57)

Sullivan Fortner – piano
Rufus Reid – bass

It's The Nights I Like | Rufus Reid with Sullivan Fortner | Sunnyside Records

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