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Near perfect

Bob Reynolds - Can't Wait For Perfect
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 25, 2006
Bob Reynolds

Review by Brad Walseth

One of the most rewarding events to a music writer is when he discovers an exciting new voice who seems poised to break through into the public consciousness: young tenor saxophonist Bob Reynolds is such a cat. Not that Reynolds doesn't already have impressive credits: he graduated summa cum laude from Berklee, has performed with a diverse range of artists such as Brian Blade and country icon Willie Nelson, and scored a couple of short films; but the 28 year old New York based saxman shows a creative boldness and maturity that is nothing short of breathtaking on his debut album Can't Wait For Perfect - recorded for the aptly named Freshsounds Records (the label that launched Brad Mehldau, Kurt Rosenwinkel and the Bad Plus).

Reynolds playing is tough, slippery and pleasantly surprising in its twists and turns over the churning landscape, yet he can roll out the romantic yearning in deuces. Monster rhythm section Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums are a combustive duo who make stellar use of their moments to shine, while keyboardist Aaron Goldberg (what a band Reynolds has assembled!) is a master of supportive understatement on his piano and Rhodes: just check out his bluesy pedal tone chording on the title track. Guest guitarist Mike Moreno is featured to good effect on three songs, while in a another interesting twist - pedal steel guitarist(!) David Soler adds some expressive sonic shading.

As great as all the playing is, the songs themselves are key, and highlight Reynold's impressive compositional skills. "Common Ground" opens up and Reynold's gutsy playing over the shifting 15/8 time signature signals that this is no ordinary recording, because despite the unusual structure the song and band groove! And this pattern continues throughout the entire recording with nearly too many highlights to list. Songs like "Belief," "Summer Light" and the incredible "First Steps" (in 11/8) all are impressive in both their arrangements as well as their presentation, while "Fiction" and "Last Minute (Late Again)" (featuring an explosive solo from drummer Harland) show that Reynold's years playing in a rock band haven't been wasted either. "Intro(For Tomorrow) is a nice little pedal steel and sax interlude that breaks up the pattern nicely, while the wonderful "Nine Lives" (in 9/4) has recently been covered in concert by Joshua Redman (who along with Michael Brecker have been touting the up-and- coming Reynolds). Album closer "The Escape" is a rave-up that is guaranteed to have you tapping your toes and smiling ear to ear.

At times sounding like a smoother Brecker, at other times channeling the grit of the great Cannonball, Reynolds is mostly his own man, with his own voice, and it is one that is entirely listenable. With this fantastic first release, Bob Reynolds proves that although we can't wait for perfect, we don't have to.

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