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Rufus Reid: Live at the Kennedy Center

This set by Reid’s quintet contains not only a CD but also a companion DVD with an extra performance and a lengthy interview with the leader. “I have been given a gift,” Reid says, and he speaks of new life as a composer. His career (as bassist for Eddie Harris, Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz, among many other “names”) and as an educator (he was director of jazz studies at William Paterson University) attests to his cultivation, stewardship and outreach of this gift.

Reid’s group-trumpeter and flugelhorn player Freddie Hendrix, tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, pianist Sumi Tonooka and drummer Tim Horner-performs seven of his originals plus four others on this set. The music is warm, inviting and uplifting. “Come Out and Play,” the opener, is a playful Thad Jones-like Reid original; Hendrix, the youngest member of the group, makes an immediate impact on the session with his bright sound, high held notes and Freddie Hubbard- and Woody Shaw-like melodic connections. (Hendrix is impressive. Where has he been?)

Reid is a melodic composer, and the horns respond in kind throughout the album. Perry has a thoughtful, nuanced, sinuous approach, but he’s capable of breaking out into a harder, more visceral attack (as on Reid’s “Celebration”). Hendrix is especially lyrical on Reid’s “Dreamgliding,” on flugelhorn. Tonooka plays powerfully and percussively-often with big block voicings-behind the horns and in solo.

Reid leads and supports with firm bass lines. His demeanor and beat convey authority, not of the aggressive, Charles Mingus type, but of a steadier, more even temperament. This CD package is the most comprehensive portrait of the ever-instructive Reid we’re likely to get.

Originally Published