Reuben Rogers – The Things I Am

Reuben Rogers
The Things I Am
(Reubin Rogers – 2006)
by Donald Eichelberger

Much of this CD is some pretty heady stuff. The majority of the compositions aren’t either composed or arranged with the specific intent of getting you to pat your foot. However, if you are interested in artistic composition combined with creative improvisation performed by an array of musicians possessing excellent chops, then this self-titled CD by Reuben Rogers will provide you with much listening pleasure; such that, you’ll be able to re-visit a composition/performance and you’ll undoubtedly hear nuances that you may not have heard on previous occasions. Like rich food, this is rich musical fare that not everyone will appreciate because it might be considered, by some, a bit too cerebral. That is, except for a couple of songs, this CD isn’t “commercial” in the usual sense; but based upon what I hear, I believe that the personnel on this CD would agree that artistic excellence actually IS commercial because its very existence renders it valuable.

The first cut, “Wala Wala”, begins with some pretty spacey stuff: a solo acoustic bass intro. Then the listener is taken on a journey through some lush and vibrant musical landscapes. The piano solo by Aaron Goldberg is especially smooth and pleasing.

“Anorev” is a sultry and dreamy composition. The rhythm is a more like a pulse that isn’t always regular. The percussion is used for flavor, not merely for providing a beat. And horns are used as a section in order to provide chordal support for Reuben’s electric bass solo. David Gilmore’s guitar work receives similar background, with added counterpoint provided by Reuben’s deft bass work.

“Ting for Ray” is a straight-ahead number that features a trio consisting of Reuben Rogers (back on acoustic), Gregory Hutchinson on drums, and Mark Whitfield on guitar. Thanks to Hutchinson’s contribution of creative drumming, this is a true trio piece instead of just a duet between two stringed instruments.

The “St. Thomas (Interlude)” is just that: a brief duet between Rogers’ acoustic bass and Whitfield playing catchy little rhythms on what sounds like all the hard surfaces of a drum kit, using everything but a drum head.

Aaron Goldberg’s composition, “Shed”, is a joyful romp that features Joshua Redmond. In the intro on “Phillip”, Reuben gives us a taste of his bow work. Ron Blake adds alto flute and Adam Cruz on steel drums provides percussive and melodic contributions. And once again, there’s a pulse to the music that frees-up the drummer to add more than just a beat to the song. However, in the end, Hutchinson lays-down a solid beat as the song settles into a nice little groove and saunters-off into a glorious sunset.

“Fungi Mama” is almost a reprise of “St Thomas”, in terms of feel, but this time there’s a full compliment of Nicholas Payton on trumpet and Ron Blake again on tenor sax to fill-out the sound and generally add to the festivities, for these musicians sound like they’re truly enjoying playing this song, composed by the late Blue Mitchell.

“The Things I Am” caught me off guard. This song could easily be categorized as being almost “pop” or “commercial”, and frankly, at the time, it seemed somewhat out of place, and frankly, still does. Now comes the “Nearness of You”, and once again I was caught slightly off guard by the presence of this standard; however, Reuben plays the melody on acoustic bass with such feeling and tenderness that I was drawn into his performance. He evokes the romance without becoming too sugary, and his solo is lyrical, yet haunting.

“Just in Time” is like a chariot with five fiery steeds all intensely pulling at a gallop. In this instance, the steeds are musicians, and they’re coursing along, not like they’re in a race, but like they’re just out for a spin, not going for top speed, but still moving and grooving right along. Here you’ve got some hard-swinging, sweet, fleet musicians, who can handle not only the pace, but they also seem to revel in taking tight curves at high speeds. Exhilarating!

“Alleviation” is a return to the inventive explorations of melodic and harmonic themes. There’s also less reliance on rigid rhythmic structure or rigid repetition of patterns. Despite the lack of what might be considered, by some, to be essential elements in and to music, Reuben Rogers and his carefully chosen crew of performers offer to take you on a journey that pulls into unexpected ports where you’re liable to encounter something you aren’t accustomed to, but you find it, nevertheless, quite appealing.