Pianist Eric Reed soars to towering heights with this uplifting and altogether superior new release, featuring fellow “Wynton Marsalis Group” constituents; trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, alto saxophonist Wessell Anderson and other jazz sharpshooters, as this eleven-piece outfit delivers the goods in rather explosive fashion. No doubt, Reed possesses enviable chops, yet his concoction of cleverly organized motifs and complexly swinging arrangements offer a trickle of fresh air to a sometimes languid or floundering, modern-day post-Bop scene. With, “Three Dances: Island Grind - Latin Bump - Boogie Down”, Reed perpetuates articulately crafted and tightly integrated Bop grooves amid blazing Bud Powell-like right hand movements, rhythmically charged block chords and roaring cadenzas.
Essentially, the group kicks up a storm via Reed’s dazzling, big band style horn arrangements. However, the musicians’ chart a disparate course via the mid-tempo, rollicking and rolling R&B-drenched piece titled, “Suite Sisters: Fine & Brown”, whereas Reed’s stride piano intro to “Romantic Rag” launches a series of alternating themes and flows, including subtle nods to March-master John Phillip Sousa and Duke Ellington. Meanwhile, “Devil In A Dress” boasts a pungent Afro-Cuban vibe to coincide with the musicians’ well-placed enunciations and cheery sentiment. Needless to state, Happiness is an impassioned celebration of the musical spirit and other than a bit of much deserved fanfare, the musicians’ also propagate an idyllic perspective throughout. Strongly recommended - (Top Ten pick for 2001).
Personnel: Eric Reed; piano: Marcus Printup; trumpet: Mike Rodriguez; trumpet: Wycliffe Gordon; trombone: Dion Tucker; trombone: Wessell Anderson; alto saxophone: Julius Tolentino; alto saxophone: Wayne Escoffery; tenor & alto saxophones: Walter Blanding Jr.; clarinet: Barak Mori; bass: Rodney Green; drums: Renato Thoms; percussion