Lucid Culture


CD Review: The Scott Reeves Quintet – Shapeshifter: Live at Cecil’s

Many years ago, as an expose of the publishing industry, an investigative reporter had his assistant type up a couple of chapters of a bestselling Jerzy Kosinsky novel and then sent it around to several houses. None of them offered a contract, few even looked at it, and the one editor who commented on it mentioned a similarity to Kosinsky but said it was poorly written. Likewise, when this cd came over the transom, all signs pointed to a prank. It has the slightly boomy live room sound common to good-quality bootlegs from the 50s, a couple of tracks fade out rather than ending cold, and the piano is just a hair out of tune (which accidentally enhances the dark glimmer of several of the songs). The arrangements are typically oldschool, the band introducing the head, individual members following with solos. And the compositions are exquisitely melodic. What classic combo from the golden age, circa 1959, could this be? Who might be responsible for that gorgeously nocturnal, vividly impressionistic piano? Wynton Kelly? Not bluesy enough. Dave Brubeck, at his late-50s apex? No, too bluesy. The rhythm section has taste and swing, the tenor player doesn’t waste a single note and the trumpeter plays with a Miles Davis-like clarity. Except that’s not a trumpet. As with the original Kind of Blue, could this have been recorded at the wrong speed? And who’s trying to pull a fast one here?


Answer: nobody. Scott Reeves is a highly regarded composer and educator at the CUNY School of Music and Juilliard who’s played with several high-profile acts in addition to leading his own ensembles. What he’s playing on seven of the nine tracks here is an alto flugelhorn, fusing the slower, soulful attack of a trombone with the broader color spectrum of a much smaller horn (he also plays his own creation, the alto valve trombone on two cuts). This is his latest cd, and it’s one of the most beautiful melodic jazz albums of recent years. Reeves credits Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera’s Piano Sonata as inspiration for the opening, title track, Jim Ridl’s elliptically mysterioso piano providing an austere backdrop – and absolutely no shelter – for a terse horn arrangement, Rich Perry’s tense, wary tenor and Reeves’ equally terse and startling solos. And then, true to its title, the scene suddenly shifts, the rhythm section scurrying along beneath atmospheric sheets of sound punctuated by Ridl’s incisiveness.


The nocturnal glimmer that permeates the album is most vivid and beautiful on the cd’s best cut, the long, almost twelve-minute New Bamboo, a hauntingly modal number stalking along on Mike McGuirk’s ominous bassline and Ridl’s dark, insistent chords, Reeves adding a beautifully lyrical flugelhorn solo. And then the piano makes a long, painstaking attempt to bring some light into the darkness, but you almost know it’s not going to happen. And then it’s over. This is a pantheonic song, one that a whole lot of musicians will be adding to their repertoire once word gets around.


The aptly titled Incandescence shares the same hauntedly romantic, after-sunset feel, the horns building the theme in unison over murky, menacing piano as the rhythm pulses, McGuirk adding a plaintive solo. Reeves and Perry conduct a clinic in shadow and shading, and Ridl adds a hauntingly insistent, poignant solo that’s the high point of the entire cd.


The album’s other tracks include also the catchy, funky, Miles Davis-inspired The Alchemist; the richly coloristic, pensive Without a Trace, a trio of upbeat, tunefully swinging numbers and a stab at a samba with some evocatively breezy work from Perry (and a beat that stomps rather than sways – easy, guys, this stuff is supposed to be sultry!). Not only is this a great album for jazz fans, it’s a great stealth attack weapon. Like Sketches of Spain, A Love Supreme or the latest JD Allen Trio cd, it’s a way to turn your rock friends on to what you’ve known all along. Reeves is currently on Japanese tour, returning for a gig with this group at 55 Bar on May 3 with sets at 9:30 and 11.

April 16, 2009 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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