Reuben Rogers -"The Things I Am"(Renwick Entertainment)
Review by Brad WalsethWarmly human and endowed with a palpable quality of joy for life, young bassist Reuben Rogers' first solo release - "The Things I Am" takes the listener on a pleasurable journey through Rogers' musical influences. A native of the Virgin Islands, Rogers has honed his skills while working with a veritable who's who of jazz: Wynton Marsalis, Diane Reeves, Ron Blake, Nicholas Payton, Joshua Redman and more. Blake, Payton and Redman return the favor by guesting on this recording, while his exemplary band mates in Redman's band: Aaron Goldberg on piano and Gregory Hutchinson on drums add stellar support. The musicians are rounded off by excellent guitarists David Gilmore and Mark Whitfield, percussionist Kahlil Kwame Belle, and steel drummer Adam Cruz. The songs were recorded in one or two takes with minimal rehearsal - so there is a tangible freshness to the songs.
Rogers studied clarinet, piano and drums before taking up the bass, and it seems that this education has served him well, as his bass lines are among the most melodic in modern jazz (no doubt this has been a major factor in the feverish demand for Rogers as a sideman). Opener "Wala Wala" starts with a furiously raw bass solo before the band kicks into a nice post-bop flavored number complete with Payton's scintillating trumpet and Goldberg's mesmerizing piano glissandoes. "Anorev" is a beautiful little piece written for his mother (Verona) and graced with Gilmore's sensitive guitar and Ron Blake's tenor sax. "Ting for Ray" is a tribute to the late, great bassist Ray Brown and is a delightful foray into Ray's style (with bass solo) by a young man who knew the older Brown well.
Rogers risk offending jazz purists by veering into Carribbean rhythms on several tunes, but this is only natural for a player who grew up in the Carribean and wants to reexamine to his roots. He plays Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas" - with the bass taking the sax lead, and covers Blue Mitchell's "Fungi Mama." The reggae-tinged title track too has a clear, joyous island feel to it as well that is enhanced by Blake's baritone sax. Rogers, Redman, Hutchinson and Goldberg shine on Aaron Goldberg's "Shed" (written for Joshua) which is a reunion of sorts for this group, while Toru Dodo's melodious "Phillip" is also given an island treatment with bowed acoustic bass, Blake's alto flute, and Cruz's steel drums.
Hoagy Carmichael's "Nearness of You" - one of Rogers' (and my) favorite ballads is performed sweetly (with the bass trading off taking the melody with Whitfield on tasty Joe Pass-meets-Wes Montgomery guitar), while Jule Styn's "Just in Time" features Payton and Redman together playing over a rollicking, breakneck Rogers bassline. Finally, the intense "Alleviation" ends the album and may be the highlight of the whole recording. This wonderful composition leaves one wanting more and looking forward to more of Rogers' songwriting and bandleading efforts in the future.