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Scott Reeves Quintet: The Alchemist

Jack Bowers By

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Scott Reeves Quintet: The Alchemist
Devastating as it has been, the global Covid-19 pandemic has produced a few upsides as well, one of which is the rediscovery by versatile Scott Reeves of a concert that his quintet performed sixteen years ago, in May 2005, at the City College of New York. With time on his hands as a result of the scarcity of gigs during the pandemic, Reeves visited his archives and found the recording, which he never intended to release owing to audio issues. A visit to Grammy-winning audio engineer Brian Montgomery helped change his mind. "I thought the band sounded inspired that night," he writes. "I also thought it might have been some of the best playing I've ever done that's been recorded. So I determined to get this project out there."

Was it worth the trouble and the wait? Opinions may vary. The ensemble is certainly commendable, and most of the audio deficiencies seem to have been erased. The over-all mood is relaxed and casual, more akin at times to chamber jazz than a lively blowing session. Exceptions are the title song, which hurries forward at a sprightly clip, and the standard "All or Nothing at All," taken at a more animated pace than usual. Besides writing every tune save "All or Nothing at All" and arranging every number, Reeves plays alto flugelhorn and alto valve trombone, each of which was specially designed for him, and seems now and then to be playing them simultaneously, which if true must have been quite a feat onstage with an audience, placing him in a class with Rahsaan Roland Kirk or James Morrison.

The forty-five-minute program moves from subtle to straightforward, opening with a trio of Reeves' intricate compositions, "New Bamboo," "Shapeshifter" and "Without a Trace" before traversing more familiar ground with "The Alchemist." The gauzy "New Bamboo" enters quietly before changing tempo midstream to underscore bright solos by Reeves on flugel and pianist Mike Holober, who solos again (with Reeves on valve trombone) on the aptly named Gil Evans tribute, "Shapeshifter," and introduces the easygoing bossa "Without a Trace," on which guitarist Russ Spiegel offers one of several charming solos, while bassist Howard Britz weighs in with another and drummer Andy Watson lends tasteful support on brushes. Holober's electric piano (unveiled on "New Bamboo") is exemplary on "The Alchemist," as are Reeves' trombone and Spiegel's guitar (though some sonic glitches do intrude during Reeves' solo).

This is a concert that has much to offer those who listen closely, and listen more than once, as Reeves' music is often circuitous but ultimately rewarding, while his quintet is as sharp and attentive as one would wish.

Track Listing

New Bamboo; Shapeshifter; Without a Trace; The Alchemist; Remembrances; All or Nothing at All.

Personnel

Scott Reeves: trombone; Russ Spiegel: guitar; Mike Holober: piano; Howard Britz: bass; Andy Watson: drums.

Album information

Title: The Alchemist | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Origin Records

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