Benny Reid: Escaping Shadows (2009)
To listen to Benny Reid's music is to hear a strong Pat Metheny influence. That's not a bad thing, but it is something the 28-year-old aims to move away from with Escaping Shadows, his second release as a leader.
Reid graduated from the music program at Indiana University. In addition to Metheny, his influences include Phil Woods, Sonny Rollins and Michael Jackson. Accompanying Reid on this outing are guitarist Richard Padron, keyboardist Pablo Vergara keyboards, bassist Daniel Loomis and drummer Kenny Grohowski. Jeff Taylor contributes wordless vocals on selected tracks, as does percussionist Ryan Fitch.
"Sleeping Beauty" begins as a haunting piece, with Padron's eerie electric guitar lead. Reid joins on the melody, with Grohowski supplying subtle cymbal strikes and Taylor contributing to the background. The energy cranks up during Reid's solo, with all the players deeply involved, but then all goes quiet during Vergara's piano solo. The song then reverts to its upbeat melody; while each instrument appears to be in its own direction, they all complement one another.
"New Days" is another tune that starts subtly, as Reid and Vergara welcome the dawn during a tranquil passage. The sound builds slowly, peaking with Taylor's voice complementing the instruments as the song then shifts to a vibrant interlude, with Reid and Padron engaging in a high-speed tutti. The music softens during Padron's Metheny-like solo, with Reid following. As the saxophonist warms up, Taylor matches him in counterpoint until the two link up for the closing sequence.
The eight-minute opus, "The Most Beautiful Girl I Ever Knew," is an eloquent tribute to Reid's sister, who died when he was 13. "Firelight" follows with more high energy. Grohowski is exceptional in his mixing of snare, toms and cymbals, with furious rolls at key points. Padron's electric guitar solo is a balancing act between Carlos Santana and Russ Freeman.
Reid composed all but one song, a cover of Pat Metheny's "Always & Forever." With originality and vigor, Reid and his band deliver a 10-song set that doesn't disappoint.
Track Listing: The Final Chapter; Five Years Later; Sleeping Beauty; Facing the Edge; New Days; The Most Beautiful Girl I Ever Knew; Firelight; Cutting; Always & Forever; Escaping Shadows.
Personnel: Benny Reid: alto saxophone, keyboards; Richard Padron: acoustic and electric guitars; Pablo Vergara: piano, Fender Rhodes, keyboards; Daniel Loomis: bass, electric bass (4, 7, 8); Kenny Grahowski: drums; Jeff Taylor: vocals (1, 3, 5, 8, 10); Ryan Fitch: percussion (1, 3, 8, 10).