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Bob Reynolds: Communication Is Key

R.J. DeLuke By

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In Jacksonville, he attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. It had a strong music program with a lot of jazz, and Reynolds had good mentors. He also sat in at night with the local piano trio. It was a god foundation and landed him at Berklee. "All most everything that I've done professionally can be traced back to the people that I met and the experiences there [Berklee]. That's where I met John Mayer."

At the Boston-based college school, he played at a club called Wally's where trumpeter Jeremy Pelt would lead sessions. "It was heavy. Those guys were calling tunes super fast. Playing all these obscure Art Blakey tunes. Stuff like that. You'd get up the courage to go up and get your ass handed to you."

But other nights, it was funk music. "Those were the ones that blew my mind. There's something about jazz nights—and I still find this to be the case—you get into jam session territory. It gets so indulgent and masterbatory. Often very dark. The music leaves the building so fast in 99 percent of jazz jam sessions, in my experience. On the funk night, the band was playing so together. People played so communitively. There's so much interaction. Things were happening as a group, not just one player at a time. Great players too. But the vibe was so wonderful. That was a real exciting moment for me, discovering that."

He graduated from Berklee and, as so many do, moved to New York City. But not much happened for Reynolds. He had a job with a soul singer. Did wedding gigs. Took odd jobs.

"You do what you can to survive," he says, "all the while feeling like I was pretty much failing because I didn't have some big gig right away. Graduating Berklee for me felt like a failure. I graduated summa cum laude. Top of my class and I was pretty depressed about it. [chuckles] If you were graduating Berklee, it means someone didn't come through and pick you up for a gig."

"The times have changed a lot since I was there. The music business has changed. The jazz business has changed. I was in New York for a long time, doing whatever I needed to do to be there. Meet people. Go to jam sessions. I used to play at Aaron Goldberg's apartment with people, which was really cool. He introduced me to a lot of wonderful musicians. I met him through Joshua Redman, who I'd met at the Monterey Jazz Festival. I was at Berklee and they sent my band out there to play. I met him and he became an important supporter of mine. A mentor. And he's become a great friend over the years."

His first major gig, he says, was with Mayer in 2007. He graduated in 2000. But things from there began to roll and his perseverance served him well.

About five years ago, Reynolds attended a NAMM conference and saw Snarky Puppy in concert. "I tweeted something about how amazing they were. I went back inside and I had a message from Chris Bullock, who is the main saxophonist in the band. He was a fan of mine from the records I had out at that point and the work I'd done. ...We met up. We hit it off really well."

Reynolds was invited to sit in with the band when they were in LA and a few months later he was invited to go to Europe and do a record, which was We Like It Here. He still plays with the group, though not as a mainstay. He played on the Grammy winning Culcha Vulcha

"We did a tour last spring in Europe at a same venue I played with John Mayer. It's a 5,000-person, standing-room-only thing. Brixton Academy [London]. It was sold out for Snarky, a line doubled around the block, for a nine-piece instrumental group. Pretty cool."

Snarky Puppy has burst on to the scene in recent years with awards and acclaim, but Reynolds is aware of, and admires, the grunt work that was done during years that the band struggled.

"Those guys had worked their tail off for 15 years. Some people think they just blew up. No. They spent 10 years going into massive credit card debt. Mike League is an amazing visionary person with a ton of conviction. He put everything on the line to make that band happen. If anybody thinks it's easy to keep a band like that together... forget finances, just personalities and whatnot. Those guys have my utmost respect. Incredible." Late in August, Reynolds was set to go to Texas for 10 days to record the new Snarky Puppy album.

"I've been fortunate that I've been able to carve out a space. I also do a lot of teaching. I built my own school and my own teaching studio through a website I created eight years ago. Through that I have students all over the world in more than 50 countries. That's a big part of my life too. I create new video lessons every couple weeks at this point. There are hundreds of them I have made over the years," he says. He also does master classes, guest appearances and finds time to do a video blog on on YouTube, called vblog, where he provides some tips for musicians and documents parts of what is going on in his career.



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