Visiting Jazz Bass Teacher and Composer Embodies Tradition
Rufus Reid brings the groove to MSU and beyond through the MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program.
Adam Olszewski knows his jazz bassists. As a senior in jazz studies at Michigan State University, the rising young bassist knew all about Rufus Reid—the second of four critically acclaimed artists to visit the College of Music through the 2016-17 MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program.
While Olszweski knew the legendary bassist, educator and composer has played with the likes of Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz and Art Farmer, what he didn’t know about was the deep respect Reid has for musicians of all levels.
“He made everyone feel like one of the cats,” says Olszweski. “Every time he saw you, he would greet you by name, and genuinely ask how you were. It wasn’t something he would put on. He taught and treated students with as much respect as he would a professional. Rapport is a good word to describe him.”
As an MSU Jazz Artist in Residence, Reid mentored and performed with College of Music jazz studies students Dec. 5-11. He also toured with the MSU Jazz Orchestra I to high schools and academies throughout Michigan. His residency was supported through a $1 million endowment by MSU Federal Credit Union, and included performances at the MSUFCU for their Blue Mondays concert series and a public performance at the Fairchild Theatre.
“I’m just incredibly grateful for this program,” says Olszweski. “We've all heard that phrase that goes something like, ‘this is the hand that touched the hand that touched the hand of Abraham Lincoln.’ This is like that. Reid has touched the hands of so many musicians who are near and dear to me. Being able to interact with him connects me to that lineage.”
Born in Atlanta in 1944, Reid is one of the premier bassists in the world and a revered educator and composer. He has toured and recorded with Eddie Harris, Nancy Wilson, Harold Land and Bobby Hutcherson, Lee Konitz, the Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Dexter Gordon, J.J. Johnson, Art Farmer, Stan Getz, Kenny Burrell and Kenny Barron. He continues associations with Tim Hagans, Bob Mintzer, Frank Wess, Marvin Stamm and Benny Golson, and tours with his Out Front Trio.
Reid co-created the Jazz Studies & Performance Program at William Paterson University. His 1974 book The Evolving Bassist is considered the industry standard as the definitive bass method. Reid has participated in the BMI Jazz Composer’s Workshop, and has written for string orchestra, jazz ensembles, concert band, double bass ensemble and solo bass.
Like Olszewski, MSU jazz studies undergraduate Liany Mateo knew Reid was highly respected, influential and came from a long line of jazz bassists with a specific style. She says working directly with Reid gave her a new perspective on how to play the bass, and how to be a good sideman and soloist.
“Working with Reid was a wonderful way to spend my first semester here at MSU and just confirmed how amazing it is here,” says Mateo. “He showed me that it is possible to make a career of this music, especially since he’s one of these older cats and he’s still thriving and doing his thing.”
MSU Director of Jazz Studies Rodney Whitaker says the jazz residency program is based on the mentoring tradition that is central to jazz. Being able to attract artists and educators like Reid, he says, confirms the growing perception of MSU as a premier destination for jazz studies and performance.
“The MSU Federal Credit Union makes it possible for us to bring in outstanding artists and jazz visionaries, and strengthens our ability to provide music education and opportunity to students all across Michigan,” says Whitaker. “We are deeply indebted to the credit union for supporting us as we strive for the highest standards of excellence in jazz studies and performance.”
The MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program represents the largest-ever investment in the College of Music’s curriculum. The 2016-2017 season features a blazing line-up of critically acclaimed musicians from the international, national, and regional scene. The four weeklong residencies include Jazz Guitarist Russell Malone, Bassist Rufus Reid, Clarinetist-saxophonist Anat Cohen and Trombonist Conrad Herwig.
Recap: On the Road with Rufus Reid
While an MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence in December, jazz bassist Rufus Reid took to the road with the Jazz Orchestra I as part of MSU’s efforts to bring jazz performance and education to Michigan high schools, music academies and colleges.
Destinations and highlights:
- Hackett Catholic Central High School, Kalamazoo. . . 250 people attended a community outreach concert; 48 students were involved in workshops.
- Traverse City West High School. . . . 350 people attended a community outreach concert; 37 students were involved in workshops.
- Detroit First Congregational Church. . . 1,000 people attended a community outreach concert for the 44th Annual Noel Night.
- Ann Arbor Pioneer/Huron High School/Southeastern Music Academy. . . 500 people attended a community outreach concert; 55 students were involved in workshops.
What students from visited schools said:
“The MSU Jazz Orchestra was an energetic and entertaining performance. It was inspirational for Mr. Reid to share his experiences of becoming a professional musician.” - Amanda (freshman)
“It was awe-inspiring to listen to a performer of Mr. Reid’s caliber perform in my own school. And it was even better to have the opportunity for him to listen to us.” - Adam (senior)
“Seeing the passion that Mr. Reid puts into his music makes me want to put more passion into the music I play every day.” - Colin (senior)
“Getting to see Mr. Reid in person goes beyond listening to his recordings—seeing his passion for playing in person inspires me to improve my own musicianship.” - Holden (senior)