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Rufus Reid

A consummate jazz bassist and educator, Rufus Reid is recognized for his emphatic, burly sound, yet understated style, one at home on driving post-bop albums as well as on numerous standards session and studio dates. Emerging in the 1970s with Eddie Harris, Reid has played with a bevy of luminaries, including Dexter Gordon, Thad Jones, J.J. Johnson, Art Farmer, John Mayer, and others. He has also led his own diverse recordings, like 2003's quintet date The Gait Keeper and his 2011 trio album, Out Front. He most famously co-lead the quartet Tana/Reid with drummer Akira Tana, releasing albums like 1991's Yours Mine, 1994's BlueMotion, and 1998's Back to Front. The author of the methodology book The Evolving Bass, Reid also helped found the Jazz Studies and Performance Bachelor of Music Program at William Paterson University. Along with giving masterclasses, he continued to record, releasing albums such as 2014's Grammy-nominated Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project, 2017's Terrestrial Dance, and 2022's Celebration. Born in 1944 in Atlanta, Georgia, Reid grew up in Sacramento, California, where he initially started out on the trumpet, which he played all through school. It was while a trumpeter in the Air Force that he made the switch to bass. Following his discharge, he further pursued music, studying first in Seattle with James Harnett of the Seattle Symphony and later attending Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he took lessons with Warren Benfield and Joseph Guastefeste of the Chicago Symphony. While in college, he began playing gigs, working with Kenny Dorham, Sonny Stitt, James Moody, Milt Jackson, Curtis Fuller, and Dizzy Gillespie. In 1971, he graduated with a bachelor of music degree as a performance major on the double bass. More work followed, including sessions with Dexter Gordon, Lee Konitz, and Howard McGhee. He toured internationally several times with the Bobby Hutcherson-Harold Land quintet, Freddie Hubbard, Nancy Wilson, and Eddie Harris, with whom he also recorded regularly through the '70s. Reid moved to New York in 1976, playing and recording with a quartet co-led by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. He also published his bass methodology book The Evolving Bass, and (along with Dr. Martin Krivin) founded the Jazz Studies and Performance undergraduate program at William Paterson University, where he would continue to teach and hold the position of Director of Jazz Studies until his retirement in 1999. In 1980, Reid made his debut as leader with Perpetual Stroll on Sunnyside Records, leading a trio with fellow Dexter Gordon alums, pianist Kirk Lightsey and drummer Eddie Gladden. More albums followed for the label, including 1984's Seven Minds and 1989's Corridor to the Limits. He also recorded with Lee Konitz, Ricky Ford, Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition, with a quintet co-led by Frank Wess and Art Farmer, and in duos with Kenny Burrell and Harold Danko in the '80s. Also in the '80s, he launched a fruitful collaboration with drummer Akira Tana, co-leading the post-bop quartet Tana/Reid. The group debuted in 1991 with Yours and Mine. More albums followed throughout the decade, including 1992's Passing Thoughts, 1994's Blue Motion, and 1998's Back to Front. Away from the group, the bassist paired for several duet albums, including Song for Luis with guitarist Ron Jackson and Doublebass Delights with bassist Michael Moore. The 2000s proved equally fruitful as Reid led his own quintet with tenor saxophonist Rich Perry and trumpeter and flugelhornist Freddie Hendrix on 2003's The Gait Keeper. He also reunited with Tana for Secret Agent Men, appearing with guitarist Rodney Jones, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, and tenor saxophonist Bob Kenmotsu. The bassist also found recognition outside of jazz, guesting on albums by Marianne Faithfull and John Mayer. He showcased his trio with pianist Steve Allee and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca on 2010's Out Front, followed by 2011's Hue of a Different Blue, the latter of which also featured guest appearances by Toninho Horta, Bobby Watson, Freddie Hendrix, and J.D. Allen. In 2014, Reid paid tribute to African American sculptor and civil rights activist Elizabeth Catlett on his large-ensemble album, Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project. The album earned him two Grammy nominations, for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album and Best Instrumental Composition for "Recognition." In 2017, he again joined his trio for Terrestrial Dance, which also featured contributions by the Sirius Quartet. A duo album with pianist Sullivan Fortner, Always in the Moment, appeared in 2020. Two years later, his trio again collaborated with the Sirius Quartet on Celebration.
© Matt Collar /TiVo


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