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Music Review: Scott Reeves Quintet – Shape Shifter

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With Shape Shifter, composer and courageous improviser Scott Reeves gets to show off his various angles. His working quintet rolls through a challenging program of his original compositions, adding sugar and spice wherever it’s nice to create a delightful set of tunes.

Shape Shifter was recorded live over the course of two nights at Cecil’s Jazz Club in New Jersey.

The quintet features Reeves on alto valve trombone and alto flugelhorn, Andy Watson on drums, Mike McGuirk on bass, Jim Ridl on piano, and Rich Perry handling the tenor sax. Reeves is mainly known for his work with the trombone, but Shape Shifter features his flugelhorn on seven of the nine selections.

Along with being one of the most remarkable composers and players in the jazz community, Reeves is an educator. He has been on the faculty of several major institutions, including Julliard and the University of Southern Maine. Reeves currently instructs at the City College of New York and is the author of Creative Jazz Improvisation and Creative Beginnings.

Shape Shifter resonates with that good old-fashioned live sentiment. As the players work through the composition, the listener is treated to the unrestricted nature of the band and the pieces. There are no rules and Reeves’ group creates special moment after special moment.

“The Alchemist,” dedicated to Miles Davis, features the brilliant piano of Ridl over a funky-sweet groove. The horns play off of one another spotlessly, creating a polished mood for Ridl’s keys to slide through.

The haunting balladry of “Without a Trace” is a real treat. The song, which Reeves notes is about losing something in life and regaining it again, flows with expressive statements of intent from the composer and Perry. The melody is enthralling, lingering long after the tune fades.

Reeves creates more ground-breaking sounds with “New Bamboo,” a gripping number that features the use of a pitch follower device on his flugelhorn.

All in all, Shape Shifter is a great showcase from an inventive and thrilling quintet. Led by Reeves, this is a group operating with full understanding of their powers as musicians. With difficult compositions, exhilarating instrumentations, and that great live feel, Shape Shifter is a cool, charismatic jazz record.

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