Rufus Reid & Sullivan Fortner
It’s The Nights I Like
This music, most of which has been released before on Elan Mehler’s vinyl only NewVelle Records, under the title Always in the Moment comes coincidentally at a time not long after a review of Sullivan Fortner’s Solo/Game on these pages and Mehler’s Trouble in Mind (also on Sunnyside) just two weeks ago. You should also be familiar with veteran bassist Rufus Reid, for whom we covered his 2022 Celebration with the Sirius String Quartet on these same pages. So, the pairing of pianist Fortner and Reid now reprises 2019’s album with the title It’s The Nights I Like in digital format for the first time with two bonus tracks. As the title suggests, this is mostly quiet, emotional, reflective music that also uncannily has a similar repertoire to the Mehler solo piano album in that we hear tracks from Ellington, Mingus, hints of Monk, and jazz standards mixed in with six Reid originals.
While there are countless piano trio albums, there are far fewer piano-bass pairings. Challenge me if you’d like but it’s these that come to mind – Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden, Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden, Duke Ellington/Ray Brown, Kenny Drew/Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen, Hank Jones/Charlie Haden, Bill Evans/Eddie Gomez, and Denny Zeitlin/Charlie Haden. There are likely more but not many.
Reid’s opening “Always in the Moment” features the bassist and pianist in counterpoint in a pensive ballad (certainly Fortner’s forte). Another original follows, the rather dramatic waltz, “I Can’t Explain,” played with a minimal, though playful approach with statements from each partner. The two then turn from the sublime to outright bop, often in unison but individually too for Charlie Parker’s “Big Foot.” (one of two new tracks). The lively samba driven title track, one of two clocking in under three minutes, is sandwiched between two Ellington pieces, “Duke Ellington Sound of Love” and “Sophisticated Lady.” Reid stretches out in the former and even further in the latter, which he takes solo, revealing his trademark gift for lyricism on a mostly rhythm instrument.
The duo rather sneakily wrings drops of emotion from the standard “Sweet Lorraine” in an extended take before applying a bluesy strut to Reid’s original “Reminiscing.” Echoes of Monk thread through Reid’s own “The Meddler,” written for his son with an especially riveting exchange between the two after the two-minute mark. While Jimmy Rowles’s “The Peacocks” is not as animated as the former, it showcases sterling interplay between the two collaborators and remarkable trading of the melody between the two instruments. “Come Out in Play” has the two mostly in unison in a sprightly Reid original before they close with the second bonus track where Reid takes the lead on Eubie Blake’s “Memories of You.”
The album is calm and sublime but there’s strength and unbridled confidence in the playing of each, laser focused on each other as well. It’s a clear demonstration of how the language of music can bridge generations as three decades plus separate them in age.
- Jim Hynes
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