Benny Reid

Concord Music Group, 2007

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


It’s always a good time when a disc jumps out of the slush pile and fairly demands to be reviewed.  So it was with Benny Reid’s new disc Findings, which made its way into my player and just didn’t want to leave, earning repeated listens both at the desk in the car.

Why this would be the case with a saxophonist leading a modern jazz ensemble when I’m more of a power-pop/classic rock kinda guy is one of those mysteries we’ll just have to contemplate together.  Surely it has something to do with melody – this disc offers it in spades – and passion – these guys play like they mean it.  But I think there was also an element of pure admiration for what these guys are attempting here – to my ears, anyway – which is a kind of classic/modern jazz hybrid, an approach to arrangements and solos that respects form and structure and doesn’t overplay, yet simultaneously manages to stretch out and breathe in a variety of different ways.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Alto saxophonist Reid’s ensemble consists of Richard Padron on guitar, Aaron Goldberg on piano and Rhodes, Reuben Rogers on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums, and they have a great feel for navigating these tunes, generating real swing on the upbeat numbers and lending great presence and restraint to the quieter moments.  With a spare six tracks all clocking in around the eight-to-nine minute range, everyone gets a chance to strut their stuff.

“Destiny?” is a strong opener, with Reid laying first bopping, then silvery-smooth lines over Rogers and Sanchez’s skittering rhythm section, and the group taking some pleasant detours along the way, with Padron offering a rippling, tasteful solo before the track slows down to feature some evocative percussion work from guest Ryan Fitch.  The last 90 seconds find the tempo recovering and the group coming full circle to return to the opening theme.

Sophomore cut “Transient Melody” opens with some nice scatted vocal work from Reid, before moving in a sleepy, bluesy nightclub jazz arrangement.  “Findings: A Quest For Peace,” pretentious title aside, furthers this sophisticated nightclub feel and features strong work from Goldberg in the early going before Reid takes over with a juking-jiving solo that is one of this disc’s high points.  Among the closing trio, “Dancing With My Father” stands out for its poignant piano-sax duet.

Findings as a whole manages to meld traditional and contemporary jazz, by turns sassy and respectful, melodically rich yet unafraid to experiment.  This one is definitely worth a spin.

Rating: B+

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