Rufus Reid and the Bucknell Jazz Band at the Weis Center

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This Friday night, Bucknell had the honor of having award-winning jazz composer Rufus Reid come to campus to conduct a performance of his work Quiet Pride based on the sculpture’s of the recently passed Elizabeth Catlett. The work was the constituent of the entire concert, an hour-long five-movement modern jazz masterpiece if you ask me. The pieces evoked such real feeling that doesn’t too often come along. There is very real imagery in the songs, putting good use to the abundance of talent and skill available. Each of the movements corresponds to one of Catlett’s sculptures, whose creation spans more than three decades. The first movement, Recognition, has to do with two people meeting for the first time and the rush of emotions that both feel.  The sculpture of the same name, made out of onyx, is of two figures embracing each other but their bottom halves are joined together in a curve. The music makes sure to share the perspectives of both the man and woman, the man sounding more bluesy and the woman more complex, ending in a joyous theme which represents the union of the two figures as one.

The second movement, fashioned and titled after the sculpture, Mother and Child, depicting a cedar woman with her face to the sky holding her child in swaddling cloth. The lines and curves of the statue are very smooth but very dramatic. The beginning opens with the excitement and anticipation of birth, with a bombastic first climax. It then moves into a more straightforward theme, which grows and evolves, as would a child and it mother. It ends on a rather mournful note that perhaps of angst, but one cannot forget the sounds that made life so beautiful in this movement.

The third movement, Tapestry in the Sky is inspired by the sculpture Stargazer, which was made in 2007 out of black marble with a figure laying down looking upward, was composed recently in the set in 2011. It creates fantastic imagery of those starry nights where you just go outside, look up, and gaze in wonderment at the night. A celestial beauty can be found throughout the piece and gives that feel of universality that you might not expect in jazz but find that Rufus Reid knew what he was doing, “creating a spectacular canvas of lights, constantly shimmering and gleaming”.

The fourth movement, “Singing Head” was inspired by just that, only made out of mahogany in 1975. It starts off with an a cappella voice, singing into a piano in order to make the strings resonate. The theme there is created again throughout many of the parts in the band during the piece, becoming more and more complex before returning to the simple theme. After all, it is just a head.

The last movement is entitled and inspired after the sculpture, Glory, which was made in 1981 out of bronze. The sculpture is that of the head of a black woman’s head, but with a very stoic expression, symbolizing the strength within her. A six-note theme begins the movement, but it grows into a much larger phenomenon, becoming faster and faster, representing the hectic nature of life and the hardships along with it, but it ends majestically, representing the triumph over all trials ones may face.

Daniele Gold (’13) was the vocalist for the Bucknell Jazz Band and I was able to catch up with her and get a statement.

"It was a great experience; it was unlike anything I’ve ever sung before. I’m used to being a soloist, but here I was sort of an instrumentalist and I got to see a performance in a different light. It was really great to work with Rufus, he’s very talented and passionate with his music.”

Hopefully you were there to witness all of the amazing sounds of the band and its amazing soloist, as well as to see the great jazz composer Rufus Reid blow away the audience at the Weis Center. It was truly an unforgettable performance.