Rufus Reid (with the Sirius Quartet) – Terrestrial Dance – Newvelle Records NV 012LP – audiophile vinyl LP – ****1/2

Newvelle Records continues to pursue the creative less familiar path…

(Rufus Reid – bass; Steve Allee – piano; Duduka Da Fonseca – drums; with Sirius String Quartet: Fung Chern Hwei – violin; Gregor Huebner – violin; Ron Lawrence – viola; Jeremy Harmon – cello)

As the final issue of their distinguished second subscription series, the audiophile vinyl boutique label, Newvelle Records, has again expanded their palette by pairing the iconic jazz bassist, Rufus Reid, with the boundary expanding Sirius Quartet (two violins, viola, and cello) to explore eight compositions blending chamber music with straight ahead jazz, with a touch of blues. As always, with all of Newvelle’s audiophile releases, the sound blend is impeccable, and Reid’s bass is vibrant, rich and woody, confirming his status as one of the last still performing old school bass legends. Reid came up during the 1960s, the end of the golden age of jazz, and has continued to push the post bop envelope.

Rufus cut his teeth on the jazz scene in Chicago, playing with all the big names, before moving on to New York, where he recorded with Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. He was a professor at the William Patterson College in New Jersey. In his mid 70s now, he remains active and open to new challenges. He was a perfect choice for Newvelle to pair with the cutting edge pedigree of the Sirius Quartet. On Terrestrial Dance, the quartet plays on at least half of the tracks,with the remaining numbers from Reid’s trio of pianist, Steve Allee, and drummer, Dudu Da Fonseca. On the trio tracks, with Reid’s bass prominently featured, I found myself wondering when/if the quartet would be floating in to provide accents and expand the sound stage. Five of the eight compositions were written by Rufus.

The opener, “This I Ask of You” has Reid soloing with the quartet accompanying. I loved how Da Fonseca’s gentle drum prodding spurred on the strings. Steve Allee’s piano choruses provided the swing feel. The trio performs on “It’s Time to Shout It Out”  and the bottom end sonics are magnificent, so much so that a high end set of headphones would be nice for bass lovers to fully appreciate Reid’s talents. Allee’s fleet fingers are fully in step with Rufus’ drive and Duduka’s strong drumming.

“Tippin” was one of my personal favorites. The Sirius Quartet has a chamber music intro, elegiac, and later provides accents and mood enhancers for Reid’s solos, much like a cooling breeze. On “Tranescape,” Allee leads the way, with Rufus caressing the melody. It is moody and tender, like lovers sharing confidences.

“Celestial Dance” opens with the strings playing in counterpoint to the trio in a jazz motif. The string quartet here brings to mind a Django/gypsy jazz feel. Rufus is highly muscular, really digging in, while the strings dart in and out. “You Make Me Smile” is straight ahead jazz by the trio, and a feature for Allee. They are all locked in to the groove, each fully involved.

“Falling in Love” from Victor Feldman is inquisitive and probing with Rufus constantly “responding” to Allee, and the string quartet, in a warm blend, taking the tune out. Cedar Walton’s “Cedar’s Blues” is the closer, different from the other tracks, a lightly funky blues with Reid more in a supporting role till the end of the song. It’s a refreshing aperitif after a warming meal of  superb string laden jazz/chamber music.

Once again Newvelle Records has set a high bar for the expectation of the third subscription series of audiophile LPs to begin soon.

Side A:
This I Ask of You
It’s Time to Shout It Out

Side B:
Celestial Dance
You Make Me Smile
Falling in Love
Cedar’s Blues

—Jeff Krow

Rufus Reid – Terrestrial Dance