A fresh and potent new voice on the modern jazz scene, 26-year-old alto saxophonist Benny Reid reveals a unique compositional vision along with an abundance of chops on his auspicious debut as a leader.
Born in Westfield, New Jersey on October 7, 1980, Reid grew up in a musical household where the records of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Stan Getz and Pat Metheny provided a soundtrack for daily life. "Since I was a kid, my mom and dad listened to all kinds of music," says Benny. He recalls, "When I was in second grade, they got us started in band. My uncle played the alto sax in college so when they asked what instrument we wanted to play, I chose the alto sax because of him."
He credits both his parents along with his first sax teachers with shaping his early interest in jazz. "I was blessed to have very good teachers. And during this time of studying, my parents were also buying me records and taking me to jazz concerts. I saw Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Phil Woods and so many others. They were really exposing me to the right elements and I started listening to jazz incessantly. I also started practicing a lot and by ninth grade, I was going to jam sessions locally. Later, in high school, I went into New York once in a while to play jam sessions there. So I got my ass kicked real young, and it just helped get me into shape."
From age 15 on, Reid's main mentor was former Buddy Rich alto saxophonist Andy Fusco. "Here was a real working jazz guy who was a phenomenal player and knew everything about jazz, so it was very inspiring to be with him."
Reid later attended Indiana University, where he came under the tutelage of jazz educators David Baker and Tom Walsh. "It allowed me the freedom to experiment and go on my own path," says Benny of his tenure at IU from 1998 to 2002. "Many schools tend to group you into a certain thing, but my teachers there really gave everyone individual attention. And I had terrific peers who provided a very friendly, but competitive atmosphere. We learned a lot and practiced hard. And that's the environment where I fully developed."
Although he was already composing in high school and showcased some of his original music at high school and college recitals, it wasn't until he finished his schooling at Indiana University that Reid began writing some of the music which appears on Concord Records debut. "I started writing that music when I was 20 and I finished when I was 22, so I've been sitting on it for a long time," he explains. "And I've probably written three albums worth of material since then that keeps changing and evolving. So I'm excited to hopefully get that out in the future as well.
"It's my dream to ultimately work on an orchestral scale," he continues. "I want to keep expanding the canvas and building these pieces to even bigger and bigger heights."