Rufus Reid and Out Front – Hues of a Different Blue – Motema MTM-58, 74:06 ****½:
(Rufus Reid, bass; Steve Allee, piano; Duduka Da Fonseca, drums; Special guests: Toninho Horta, guitar; Bobby Watson, saxophones; Freddie Hendrix, trumpet; JD Allen, tenor sax)
Audiophile Audition’s Doug Simpson sang the praises of Rufus Reid’s trio, Out Front, last year when their self titled CD came out. Doug pointed out that Rufus has been a go-to choice as a top-level bassist for over four decades, as well as being noted as a composer and educator.
Rufus also likes to mix it up, and on his latest Motema issue, Hues of a Different Blue, Reid has added some super-special guests to expand his repertoire. Veteran saxophonist (and groove-meister) Bobby Watson is along for two tracks, (and on “These Foolish Things” he is soul personified). Young lion JD Allen adds his tenor on three selections. Brazilian guitarist Toninho Horta also adds spice on three tunes. Freddie Hendrix, from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, brings brass to the mix on shared numbers with Allen and Watson.
“It’s the Nights I Like”, written by Reid, is done by the trio. Allee, who played with the Buddy Rich Big Orchestra, shows a strong sense of swing, and Reid’s big double bass is perfectly miked with Rufus’ fingering showing great strength as he walks with the beat. “Candango” written by Allee, has a Brazilian samba beat. (Candangos are Brazilian migrant workers.) Rufus takes lead mid-song and Duduka commands attention on drums.
All the special guests are featured on Rufus’ “When She Smiles Upon Your Face” and the horns bond seamlessly. Guitarist Horta’s guitar skills are highlighted here, and recorded well, as his acoustic guitar, up front in the mix, is exhilarating. Allen and Watson blend nicely and Hendrix helps take the tune out. This track surely deserves air time as it is quite special in its anthemic milieu.
Horta’s “Francisca” is a duo for Toninho and Reid. Horta’s voicing adds to its appeal. String lovers will rejoice in Francisca’s beauty.. The standard “Come Rain or Come Shine,” done in one take, is a feature for Reid and Allee to share honors. Allee’s piano playing has a brightness and warmth that is striking for both its lyricism and swing. Watson and Reid’s duo on “These Foolish Things” is worth an iTunes download.
JD Allen gets center-stage on “Lower Burellian Bicycle Loop” and his solo is based on the changes to Billy Strayhorn’s “Upper Manhattan Medical Group.” “The Eloquent One” has special meaning to me as it is Reid’s tribute to my favorite pianist, Hank Jones, who passed away last year. Its title is an apt description of Mr. Jones, and Freddie Hendrix’s warm trumpet solo gives it an extra special touch.
Da Fonseca’s “Manhattan Style” is among the most up-tempo tracks on the CD and Allee’s lightning fast piano runs, along with Duduka’s drum solo stand out. Eubie Blake’s “Memories of You” lets Reid and Allee work their wonders. Reid’s powerful fingering is awe inspiring as I find few bassists who can command such rapt attention when they solo.
“Mother and Child” written by Reid, taken at a slow tempo, has Horta’s guitar playing as its centerpiece and Dae Bennett of Bennett Studios should be commended for the SACD-quality acoustics of this lovely quartet piece.
The whole horn section returns for the title track. It explores both in-and -out harmonics but never leaves the listener without a groove to hold onto. Hendrix struts with a powerful trumpet line, while JD, Bobby, and Duduka dig in as well. It’s a great finishing track to a CD full of beauty, surprises, and jazz cultural diversity. Reid has chosen an apt title to describe its content.
TrackList: It’s the Nights I Like, Candango, When She Smiles Upon Your Face, Francisca, Come Rain or Come Shine, These Foolish Things, Lower Burellian Bicycle Loop, The Eloquent One, Manhattan Style, Memories of You, Mother and Child, Summer’s Shadow, I Can’t Explain, Hues of a Different Blue
— Jeff Krow