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Rufus Reid at Mezzrow Jazz Club and Dizzy's Club Coca Cola

David Hadley Ray By

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Rufus Reid and Glenn Zaleski
Mezzrow Jazz Club
New York, NY
August, 20, 2017

Mezzrow's is an intimate space situated in the heart of Greenwich Village. A great little after-hours haunt in the city that never sleeps. The club space is narrow, but it's well suited for solo piano or duo gigs. It's best to reserve your seats in advance in order to get one of the 10 or 13 tables that encroach the small, well-lit stage. The close, intimate environs of the room accentuates the informality. It's more than worth a visit for the discerning jazz lover when visiting New York.

The featured artist was the indomitable bass legend, Rufus Reid, a master of the double bass who has toured and recorded with many of the upper echelons of jazz aristocracy such as Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Burrell, Nancy Wilson, Thad Jones, and Eddie Harris, to name but a few. The set contained several tunes from the great American songbook such as "Con Alma," "I Remember You," "You Stepped Out of A Dream," "Falling in Love," and "One for Amos." The latter song written by the late, great bassist/composer Sam Jones. As the peformance progressed, it morphed into a lesson in taste, touch, and dynamics. These qualities were on full display by Mr. Reid and his accompanist that evening, Mr. Glenn Zaleski.

The 1920's era Steinway that dominated the stage projected beautifully, but what was particularly captivating was the balance achieved in such an intimate setting between the two instrumentalists. The acoustic nature of the upright bass is what makes the tone so rich and inviting, but also quite unforgiving to poor technique or heavy-handed accompanists. Thankfully, none of the aforementioned concerns were on display that night. Mr. Reid was completely unamplified, but the sound was huge. His intonation was spot on, and his notes had an authoritative envelope that reminded me of another bass master, Ray Brown. Mr. Zaleski's accompaniment was muscular whilst being sympathetic to the subtle, low volume nuances that sadly, many bassists are not allowed to explore. Fortunately, his sensitivity was on par with some flawlessly executed runs up and down the keyboard.

Rufus Reid Big Band
Dizzy's Club Coca Cola
New York, NY
October 8, 2017

After seeing Rufus Reid in a duo setting, watching him in his big band was an excellent opportunity for comparison. A big band is a delicate entity because the composer has to have clarity of purpose regarding their treatment of the instrumentation. The composer should have a clear vision of what they're trying to accomplish in the music. If they don't, the results are often a convoluted, overwrought mess of partially formed motifs and ideas.

Although the duo performance exposed and focused on the ingenuity, individuality, and improvisations of the individuals, the big band performance showcased Mr. Reid's compositional skill and acumen with his particular fusion of jazz and classical genres. Dizzy's added a degree of formality and etiquette to the music and its presentation. The backdrop was an absolutely picturesque nighttime view of Christopher Columbus Parkway through a spacious window. Of particular note was the beautifully abundant wood paneling, which most likely contributed to the organic sound quality. The personnel consisted of winds players Marty Ehrlich, alto saxophonist Mark Gross; saxophonist Scott Robinson; tenor saxophonist Roxy Coss; baritone saxophonist Carl Maraghi; trombonists Marshall Gilkes, Ryan Keberle, Luis Bonilla; bass trombonist Dave Taylor; trumpeters Frank Greene, Tim Hagans, Freddie Hendrix, Ingrid Jensen; pianist Steve Allee; bassist Rufus Reid; drummer Chris Beck; guitarist Vic Juris; and conductor Dennis Mackrel.

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