Let me start by saying that my favorite jazz instrument is the saxophone – and to get even more specific, the alto sax – and I’ve spent a lot of time enjoying past and current masters. However, I’m afraid I’m not quite ready to include Benny Reid, the star of a new Concord release, Findings, in that group.
There’s little doubt that he has some talent, and he’s put together a few intriguing sounds on his debut album, where he’s joined by some solid sidemen, including Pat Metheny’s drummer Antonio Sanchez. Others are Richard Padron on guitar, Reuben Rogers on bass, and pianist Aaron Goldberg. There are also spot appearances by percussionist Ryan Fitch and vocalist Jeff Taylor.
In addition to a solid jazz education, Reid has the youth and looks to appeal to those smooth-jazz fans who often moon over their favorite artists. However, I suspect that they will find it difficult to get into his music, which seems to attempt to straddle the line between smooth jazz and an improvisational style. That’s even confirmed in the album notes, which talk about Reid’s “mixing expansive post-bop improvisation with atmospheric contemporary jazz…”.
The result is an album of songs – all his own compositions – with something to like within almost every cut, but the whole seems less than the sum of its parts. For example, there were sequences I enjoyed in “Waves Of Red”, especially when Reid takes some strong solos, but then it begins to meander and loses its way.
Some of the supporting musicians have good turns too, but I felt that Reid should have taken charge more often. After all, it’s his music and his debut album. I also found some things to like about “Findings: A Quest For Peace”, but again I felt that it could have been better if he’d taken a stronger hand.
A mixed review on this one. Some good stuff from a young musician to watch, but not a strong recommendation from this reviewer.