Today I came across one of my old favorites. Bob Reynolds is a LA-based saxophone player, most recognized from his work with John Mayer and Snarky Puppy. After graduating from Berklee College of Music, making a name in New York City, and moving to the West Coast, Reynolds started somewhat of a movement in musical education. He started an online community for saxophone players, where he posted videos and lessons; this is where I found him. And while I don’t play the horn as much as I would like anymore, my respect for the way that Reynolds was able to create an educational environment that utilizes 21st century technology to share it with the world has not waned at all. Oh. By the way… he’s got some excellent tunes, too.
Having seen Bob Reynolds play live (about a year ago at the 55 Bar in New York), I can personally attest to his stellar live sound. There is one performance of his that beats out all of the others in my mind, because of both his incredibly tasteful delivery and the amazing musicians with whom he was played. The performance of Reynolds’ “Can’t Wait For Perfect” with the Loop Loft All-Stars is one that I cannot seem to get tired of – it is a recording that I have revisited countless times.
From the quiet, subtle, ninja-like opening, with the gentle introduction of the beautifully simple melody to the white-hot intensity we get to experience later on, there are so many venerable moments in this video. I am blown away by the quality of the rhythm section – they could not be more in sync with each other. Eric Harland on drums and Mark Kelley (from The Roots) on bass lay down an inspiringly tight groove, and Doug Wamble’s guitar comping is perfectly placed. On top of all this talent, we hear Reynolds playing one of the best saxophone solos I’ve heard in a while – and not for any kind of technical display or sonic experimentation. This solo is straightforward. It is clear. Moments like Reynold’s call and response with himself at about 2:30 and the absolutely enthralling phrases he plays after 3:30 are testaments to the power of thematic clarity. There is nothing particularly flashy about any of these musical elements. By themselves, they don’t amount to very much, but put them together like Reynolds did, and you have yourself a killer solo.
The enchantment does not stop there. After about 8:30, we hear a drum/bass feature that blew me away. This interaction between Harland and Kelley is deceptive, in a way. They do not play anything that strays very much from the groove they had been playing throughout the rest of the performance. However, there is something obviously different and almost unsettling about this part of the tune. After much thought, I’ve come to describe it as “gracefully awkward.” Harland and Kelley play with time here and create an air of delicious discomfort by constantly threatening to fall off the groove, but always finding themselves on top. It is jarring, to say the least.
Take a listen to this captivating performance below. Check out more from Bob Reynold on his website.