Jazz CD Reviews
Rufus Reid – Out Front – Motéma
Published on March 22, 2010
Rufus Reid – Out Front – Motéma MTM-36, 70:05 (Enhanced Video content: 12:05) ****:
(Rufus Reid – bass, co-producer; Steve Allee – piano; Duduka Da Fonseca – drums)
If a jazz listener listed his or her all-time favorite bassists, Rufus Reid certainly should be featured. The session player, educator, composer and bandleader has been a prominent bassist for more decades than some of his fans have been alive. Reid has worked in a multitude of settings and on his latest project, Out Front, he showcases his prowess within a sincere and swinging trio format alongside pianist Steve Allee (Buddy Rich, Randy Brecker, others) and Brazilian drummer Duduka Da Fonseca (Antonio Carlos Jobim, Lee Konitz and more).
This is collaboration with chemistry. Allee’s lush keyboard talents, Reid’s multi-tiered bass expertise and Da Fonseca’s connotative cymbals, brushes, sticks and other percussive elements come together in a three-sided musical conversation that emphasizes each artist’s performing and composing skills.
The nine tracks are split between three songs penned by Reid, one by Da Fonseca, two by Allee and three covers by Marcos Silva, Tadd Dameron (“If You Could See Me Now,” wherein the bass is the only melody instrument) and Eddie Harris (a robust rendition of “Crying Blues”). The enticing material ranges from post-bop and Latin swing to soulful romps and all yield open-minded melodies and sharp ensemble playing.
Two grooving highlights both share a Latin American tinge. On Da Fonseca’s upbeat Coltrane/Tyner- influenced “Doña Maria,” the three initiate a good-natured intensity, informed by Reid’s commanding bass runs, Allee’s harmonic chords and charismatic melody line, and Da Fonseca’s polyrhythmic aplomb where he attenuates a piquant accent. Silva’s infectious, vigorous “Dry Land” has a brisk, wry zest, with Da Fonseca energetically responding to Allee’s ardent keyboard inflections. On both tunes, Da Fonseca adds high-octane solos and Reid establishes the pace with his accelerated bass work.
The threesome proves equally captivating on slower songs. Reid’s thoughtful waltz “Reminiscing” is prefaced with a protracted Allee piano intro that sets the tone for a melancholy but amiable appeal. Reid provides subtle but decisive bass while Da Fonseca unfurls supple brushwork and lightly rolling flourishes. On his 12-minute, suite-like “Caress the Thought,” Reid focuses on sublime bass arco while Allee furnishes flowing piano melodies that have a stately sophistication part Cole Porter and part Gershwin. Tempo changes and a shifting mood allows room for the trio’s full expressiveness as the piece moves from contemplative to quick-footed and back around.
Listeners get much more than an abundant 70-minute musical journey. Reid’s instructional and interview techniques are exhibited during a 12-minute computer video offered as Enhanced CD disc content. Reid converses with Da Fonseca concerning motivation, preparation and presentation; Allee mentions Elvin Jones’ inspiration on his writing; and the three musicians chat about the experience of being on stage and in the studio together.
The engineering and audio mixing mastery by the behind-the-boards personnel is also notable. Reid’s bass is up-front but never overpowering and his turns from low-pitched and reverberant to airy and ethereal are more than capably captured. Allee and Da Fonseca’s contributions are also consistently and brilliantly delineated.
2. Doña Maria
5. Caress the Thought
6. Dry Land
7. The Rise of the Row
8. If You Could See Me Now
9. The Crying Blues
— Doug Simpson