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The Renaissance of a Jazz Legend: The Rufus Reid Quintet

United States
Rufus Reid’s new CD/DVD set, “Live at the Kennedy Center,” from Motéma Music signals an astonishing career renaissance for this extraordinary artist.

2007-04-27 — Long regarded as one of the world’s most acclaimed bassists, educators and sidemen, he has now emerged as an important headliner, leader and award-winning composer. According to the Chicago Tribune, “to hear his band unfurl so much sonic beauty without a hint of ostentation or bravura is to be reminded what substantive music making ultimately is all about.” The London Independent calls Reid’s playing “one of the most sensuous sounds imaginable.”

Reid’s newfound acclaim as a leader rests on the solid foundation of his lifetime achievements as a first call bassist for jazz icons such as Eddie Harris, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Nancy Wilson and JJ Johnson, as a top educator at major universities, and as the celebrated author of The Evolving Bassist – widely considered the definitive text on bass method. Upon winning the 2005 Mellon Jazz Living Legacy Award, Reid was saluted as “an American treasure with the vision to make a difference and turn possibilities into results.” These results may be witnessed on this premium CD/DVD release, where Reid’s bass is placed boldly into the spotlight as he leads his world-class ensemble performing emotionally-charged original compositions and reconceived jazz classics.

Set for release on May 29, 2007 by noted independent label, Motéma Music, “Live at the Kennedy Center,” was recorded October 13, 2006 at Washington, DC’s venerable national home for the performing arts. To celebrate this release, Reid’s Quintet will perform selections from the CD/DVD at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (Broadway at 60th Street in New York City) on Monday, June 18. For tickets, please call (212) 258-9595. This CD/DVD set features diverse moods and textures ranging from his dynamic opening jaunt “Come Out and Play,” one of many compelling, accessible original compositions on the disc; to “Ode to Angela,” saxophonist Harold Land’s infectious tribute to activist Angela Davis; to Reid’s sensitive solo bass interpretation of Duke Ellington classic “Sophisticated Lady.”

In addition to Mr. Reid on bass, the album features Rich Perry on tenor saxophone, Freddie Hendrix on trumpet and flugelhorn, Tim Horner on drums and Sumi Tonooka on piano. An international tour is currently underway throughout 2008. The CD and DVD were produced by Suzi Reynolds, with Motéma founder Jana Herzen, Mr. Reid and Ms. Reynolds serving as executive producers. The package includes liner notes by Ed Berger (Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies), and a special in-depth DVD feature, “Meet Rufus Reid,” offering rare historical and musical insights by this accomplished musician with a deep dedication to young artists and music education.

Reid’s discography of over 300 recordings reads literally like “Who’s Who” in jazz, having traveled, performed and recorded with many of the great masters like Philly Joe Jones, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Dexter Gordon, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Ammons, Kenny Dorham, Eddie Harris, Sonny Stitt, Don Byas and Art Farmer. Reid has also performed and recorded with Andre Previn, Kathleen Battle and the St. Lukes Chamber Orchestra in 1992. Also in 1992, Rufus had two performances of “Two Faces”, a Concerto for Solo Double Bass and Jazz Trio, composed by Benny Golson for Reid. It was debuted at William Paterson University by the Wayne Chamber Orchestra and had a New York premier in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center.

Since his retirement after 20 years as Director of Jazz Studies and Performance at William Patterson University, he has devoted himself to composing original music for his quintet, big band and nonet.

His current artistic renaissance has resulted in a winning string of prestigious commissions: the BMI Jazz Composer’s Workshop Charlie Parker Composition Award for his, “Skies Over Emilia,” the ASCAP/IAJE Commission for Established Jazz Composers, “Hues of a Different Blue”, which was premiered at the 2007 IAJE Conference in New York. The 2006 Sackler Composition Commission Prize, the first time this honor has been awarded to a jazz musician. This four-movement work, “Quiet Pride”, inspired by four sculptures of the artist Elizabeth Catlett, “Recognition”, “Glory,” “Mother and Child,” “Singing Head,” for Jazz Orchestra, was premiered at the University of Connecticut in March, 2007. Rufus also received a 2006 Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Says Reid, “I love melody and the process of pondering where to put the next note, watching the seed of an idea grow into a whole composition. I feel fortunate that my commissioned works have been so well received, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity of doing more.”

In 2003 “Linear Surroundings” a composition of Four Movements: “Shadow Chasing,” “Moods,” “The Peaceful Flame,” and “Collage” was created with generous support from the Chamber Music of America Awards, generously funded by the Doris Duke Foundation. “The Gait Keeper” is a result of a commission from Cornell University Jazz Ensemble.

The International Society of Bassists presented Reid with their highest honor, the Distinguished Achievement Award, in 2001. The New Jersey Chapter of the IAJE named him the Outstanding Educator of 1999. The International Association of Jazz Educators awarded him the Humanitarian Award in 1997. Bass Player magazine awarded Rufus the 1998 Jazz Educator Achievement Award.

From 1990-2001, Reid co-led a Quintet with drummer Akira Tana. They released five CD’s during their tenure: Yours and Mine and Passing Thoughts on Concord Records; Blue Motion, Looking Forward, and Back To Front are available on Evidence Music. Reid also has four duo CD’s: Two in cooperation with Michael Moore, released by Double Time Records: Double Bass Delights and Intimacy of the Bass; Song for Luis with Ron Jackson for Mastermix Records; and Alone Together with Peter Ind for Wave Records.

Reid’s book, The Evolving Bassist – published since 1974 – continues to be recognized as the industry standard for bass method. A millennium edition was published in 2000 and in 2003, a DVD adaptation was released featuring a concert with Reid, Mulgrew Miller and Lewis Nash.

Rufus Reid is an exceptional educator, teaching clinics since 1971, with associations with Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops, the Stanford University Jazz Workshop, and the Lake Placid Institute, to name a few. He was on the faculty of William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, as Full Professor and Director of the Jazz Studies and Performance program for twenty years completing his tenure in 1999. The WPU Jazz Program continues to be considered one of the best in the country.

Reid studied with James Harnett of the Seattle Symphony, then with Warren Benfield and Joseph Guastefeste of the Chicago Symphony

“He is the total package,” says Grammy-winning author Bob Blumenthal. “At the core of Rufus Reid’s skills is positivism that affects everything he does. While he can be serious as necessary, he does not sacrifice an underlying optimistic outlook in the present. His career has been all about lifting spirits – those fellow musicians, his students and his listeners.”


Motéma Music was founded in 2003 with the intention of promoting artists of extraordinary talent who deserved wider recognition. In addition to Rufus Reid, the Motéma roster includes pianists Lynne Arriale, Marc Cary and keyboardist Pete Levin; percussionists Babatunde Lea and Bujo Kevin Jones; guitarist Roni-Ber Hur; and vocalists Amy London and Jana Herzen.
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