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Rufus Reid Quintet: The Gait Keeper

Rufus Reid is a stalwart of the bottom line, having played on seemingly countless albums and tours. His newest album as a leader, appropriately titled The Gait Keeper (Sunnyside), could additionally establish his credentials as a composer of note. The original tunes on this quintet session manage to be both visceral and thoughtful, and they provide ample fodder for improvisational variation. “The Meddler” opens the disc on a head-wagging note, with a sort of testifyin’ lick from the horns; other tunes convey bluesy swagger, nimble uptempo maneuvering and melodic balladry. Reid is particularly fond of long-form horn codas that dart across the topography of a tune; Horace Silver is a clear precedent here, particularly on the bright samba “You Make Me Smile.” It’s to the great credit of still-underrated tenor saxophonist Rich Perry and as yet-undiscovered trumpeter Fred Hendrix that these serpentine figures never bog down a song’s propulsive drive. Equally impressive are pianist John Stetch and drummer Montez Coleman, whose obvious rapport with their leader makes for a smooth (but not too smooth) ride.

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