The debut album by the Rick Reynolds Group, Color Theory, welds together different jazz musical styles to fabricate a richly enjoyable listening experience. Rick Reynolds is a truly versatile guitarist, and with Color Theory he and his band offer up an innovating melting pot of sound and a virtual kaleidoscope of color.
Color Theory opens with "Better Than Ever," a melodic, smooth mid-tempo song with a nice hook. Reynold’s guitar is sweetly reminiscent of both George Benson and Chris Standring. This song, an excellent choice to lead off the CD, should command airplay on smooth jazz radio. It’s followed by "The Commute" which features a fusion ensemble sound led by horns, with a tight rhythm section, and frantic keyboards. The song is aptly named, as the listener can easily envision a commute in cross-town traffic. Mid-song, it segues into a brief drum solo by Bomani, before resuming the driving beat with the band’s collective foot squarely on the accelerator.
The bass driven "Free Space" is a funk-filled fest. Reynolds adds soulful slices of delectable funk guitar to the canyon-deep groove. It’s one of the many highlights of the disc, and is guaranteed to coax listeners to the dance floor. The opening Greg Roth bass riff ignites the fuse of the jazz fusion song "Controlled Burn." To call this one up-tempo would be an understatement. On this high voltage number drummer Bomami is blisteringly masterful on percussion and cymbals, and Reynolds heats things up with his jazzy guitar licks.
On "Tootsie Popsie," Reynolds wields a guitar synthesizer that closely mimics a melodica and harmonica. Perhaps, taking into account the title, it was written in tribute to Jean Toots Thielemans, the great jazz harmonica master. Regardless, it’s a fun ear-candy romp with bassist Roth providing agile deep bass turns alongside Bomani’s cymbal splashes and crisp rat-a-tats.
The sound of a drag racer burning rubber, and going through the gears starts the song "GTO." It then progresses to Jeff Beck meets Larry Coryell jazz fusion territory. Reynolds fearlessly sprays out bent notes in a display of dexterity stitching his runs through the rock solid rhythms. This primarily hard edged composition contains a morsel of introspective meandering from the piano of Chris Gardner midways through, before returning to again show its jagged teeth.
Timing in at just less than four minutes, "Food" is the briefest song on the disc. But, what the tune lacks in length it makes up for in substance. It’s a song that is as beautiful as a Diamond Head Hawaiian sunset. Reynold’s tranquil guitar notes are balmy as a May breeze, and present a fine contrast to the other many colors present elsewhere on the disc.
The soloing sax which forms a counterpoint to the insistent driving bass and drums helps build rhythmic tension on "Getting Shorter in Jaco City." It’s a fine musical adventure, with respects paid to sax player Wayne Shorter and bassist Jaco Pastorius from the seminal jazz fusion group Weather Report. Reynold’s ringing rhythm guitar helps fuel the song’s driving beat and shows another facet of his skill adding texture.
"The Player" provides the platform for Rick Reynolds to slinkily showcase his jazz/blues abilities. As with some of the other songs, there is a lot of imagery involved. Reynold’s guitar work is sinuous, and reminds me of some of the better work from Harvey "the Snake" Mandel with his syncopated phrasing. To me, this one is the centerpiece of a great and varied CD.
Rick then shows off his scat capabilities on "Sesame Seeds." The song has a feel that recalls a time long past, when beatniks exposed their poetic ramblings in coffee shops to the beat of snapping fingers and exclamations of "Cool." The walking bass line provides the platform for Rick’s jazzy guitar interjections.
The CD closes with "Passing Day," a song that rumbles along forcefully like a train steaming down the tracks. The horns sound the engine’s melodic warning as the drums keep the wheels clickety clack tempo. Gaining momentum, the rest of the band joins in rolling along at breakneck speed.
All in all, Color Theory is a wonderful introduction to the distillation of fire and imagination by Rick Reynolds. These eleven diverse self-penned compositions are of high quality and should help attract due recognition.