Rob Reddy has been working out of the New York City jazz scene since the early 90s, mostly leading his own ensembles that play modern creative music that often draws a lot of influence from ‘roots music’, and early Americana. Given his interest in early jazz, its no big surprise that Reddy’s latest CD, “Bechet: Our Contemporary”, uses 1920s-50s jazz saxophonist Sidney Bechet, and his music, as an inspiration. The connection between the two is furthered by the fact that both play(ed) soprano sax, and both consider(ed) themselves as avante-gardists for their time. On this CD, Reddy presents a mix of original tunes and Bechet covers that seamlessly blend modern NYC with Bechet’s late 20s NYC. The two eras work well together because the late 20s was a very eclectic and experimental era in jazz, an era that produced many fast moving changes. A sly and subversive NYC centered fast paced hustle defines both eras.
This album opens with a Rob Reddy original, “Up South”, that uses Bechet type riffs to build an energetic punky jump blues chaos that features hot guitar from Martin Sewell. After this, Rob uses the colors of his mini orchestra to paint a cinematic tango version of Bechet’s “Petite Fleur”. From here, the album continues to alternate Reddy originals with Bechet covers, and the blend works perfectly. As is often the case with these sort of ambitious projects, there is a wide variety of musical styles at work, including; traces of Ornette Coleman, avant country blues, floating psychedelia, New Orleans style jam sessions gone beserk and plenty more. The music is pushed by hot solos from artists such as Curtis Fowlkes, Charlie Burnham, John Carlson and others.
All of the tracks on here are strong until we get to the album closer, “Broken Windmill”, on which Reddy and his crew try to play a Bechet arrangement from the 20s. Today’s players are clever and resourceful, but they don’t have the sort of physical commitment that it takes to play this kind of music. Reddy’s cover of this tune is interesting and humorous, but not entirely successful, still its inclusion is important for painting the big picture. Overall this is a great album, fans of modern NYC eclectic jazz will know what to expect, and fans of 20s jazz may be surprised at how well this all goes together. How many ensembles can use Sidney Bechet riffs to build floating pastoral Pink Floyd type textures.