Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project (Motema Music)
By Devon Wendell
Legendary and iconic bassist and composer Rufus Reid has been a major contributor to the jazz scene since the late ‘60s. Reid has collaborated with some of the music’s greatest pioneers such as: Dexter Gordon, Art Farmer, J.J. Johnson, Benny Golson, Jack DeJohnette, Stan Getz, Andrew Hill, Nancy Wilson, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis and Eddie Harris. As a band leader, Reid has recorded seventeen albums. He has also won multiple awards including the Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize, The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship For Composition, and The Mellon Jazz Living Legacy Award.
Reid’s latest recording, Quiet Pride, is a suite for a large ensemble, conducted by Dennis Mackrel and inspired by the sculptural works of the great African American artist and civil rights activist Elizabeth Catlett. The album, scheduled for release on Feb. 11, was produced by Reid and Akira Tana.
Quiet Pride’s sound harkens back to the early ‘60s Third Stream and the avant-garde jazz of Eric Dolphy, fused with the experimental big band sound of Oliver Nelson. Nelson’s influence can be heard on the opening “Prelude To Recognition” and Dolphy’s looming shadow is evident in Carl Maraghi’s bass clarinet work on “Recognition” and in the piece’s complex melody.
Steve Allee’s blues-rooted piano and Tom Christensen’s harp-bop tenor sax add some elegant and soulful texturing to these pieces.
The presence of Ingrid Jensen’s unique trumpet style make both “Mother And Child” and “Tapestry In The Sky” album highlights. Reid’s bass solo on “Mother And Child” is tasteful and thematic to the composition. And “Tapestry In The Sky” is inspired by Elizabeth Catlett’s sculpture “STARGAZER.”
As swinging and ambitious as these arrangements are, the addition of Charanee Wade’s cloying, wailing vocals distract from the instrumentation at times, especially on the melody lines.
The big band horn arrangements on “The Singing Head” are reminiscent of the Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Orchestra. Steve Wilson’s alto sax solo is adventurous and brilliant and Freddie Hendrix’s trumpet work has the purity of Ray Nance in Duke Ellington’s Orchestra during the mid ‘50s. Vic Juris’s guitar solo is tasty and dynamic. The rhythm section of Rufus Reid on bass and Herlin Riley on drums is tight, though Riley’s drums often sound overly compressed, especially when soloing on “Singing Head” and “Glory” which closes the suite.
The horns are exceptional throughout, especially the trumpets of Tanya Darby, Tim Hagans, Ingrid Jensen, and Freddie Hendrix.
“Glory” is a hard swinging mid-tempo piece that feels like a brief segment in one of Charles Mingus’ more relaxed compositions.
Reid’s compositions move with the grace, intelligence and intensity of Catlett’s sculptures. On Quiet Pride, Reid has once again proven to be a true musical thinker and lover of both the avant-garde and big band eras of jazz. Although the compositions can be a bit derivative at times, Reid’s sense of history, theme, and imagery make Quiet Pride worth checking out.
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