Music Reviews
Scott Reeves Quintet

Scott Reeves Quintet

The Alchemist

Origin Records

The Alchemist is an odd little project. It’s a performance by a line up of Reeves’ band that never did a proper recording. Students from the recording technology program recorded it at a 2005 concert at City College of New York. There was no intention of this student project ever being more than a scratch recording of some of Scott’s new compositions. Then Scott retired from his teaching gig, the pandemic hit and suddenly there was plenty of time to poke around in the tape archives.

The Alchemist has a unique sound. The Quintet seems to be exploring the space between smooth jazz pioneers like Bob James and experimental composers like Jon Hassell. Reeves made some interesting choices. He decided to leave his slide trombone at home in favor of a pair of obscure horns, an alto flugelhorn and an alto valve trombone. The range of these instruments is a bit higher than a tenor trombone and a bit lower than a trumpet.

In addition to using unusual instruments, Reeves used live electronics to alter the sound of the horns. “New Bamboo” opens set featuring the slightly otherworldly sound of the manipulated instruments. “New Bamboo” is where Reeves sounds most like Jon Hassell or electric period Miles Davis.

The Quintet ‘s playing is inspired yet relaxed. Pianist Mike Holober gives a nod to Gil Evans on “Shapeshifter.” Russ Spiegel does a great job creating textures and tasty solos. The rhythm section of Howard Britz on bass and Andy Watson on drums are always spot on supporting the group while also throwing in unexpected accents that make things more interesting.

Reeves called this recording, “Probably the best small group work I’ve ever done in my life. We get to enjoy The Alchemist now because some City College students needed practice doing live recordings back in 2005 and a global pandemic gave the composer time to dig through his old tapes. Sometimes, the coolest stuff just happens.”


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