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Rufus Reid’s Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project is an excellent example of “art influencing art.” The legendary and iconic bassist composed, arranged and conducted this five-movement suite as a tribute to five of Catlett’s sculptures – “Recognition,” “Glory,” “Mother and Child,” “Singing Head” and “Stargazer.”
“You know how you can spend hours in a gallery, just letting the images sink in? I found myself responding to the shapes and lines in Elizabeth’s work. While there is no ‘absolute’ correspondence, I do feel that she inspired me to mix my own shapes and lines,” says Reid of Quiet Pride, according to Jazz Times.
For those who have never heard of Elizabeth Catlett, she is considered one of the premiere African-American multi-media artists of the 20th century. The sculptor and printmaker was also a human rights activist, using her works to make political statements. Her pieces can be found in exclusive collections in the Museum of Modern Art and the White House and in the homes of private owners including Oprah and Bill Cosby.
Reid offers his interpretation of five such works with a 20-piece large ensemble on this recording. The result is an avant-garde jazz sound with experimental big band styling. This might seem a tad “out there” for some, but really, this approach matches the intensity and intelligence of Catlett’s sculptures perfectly.
Catlett’s “Recognition” represents the coming together of two individuals. Reid’s complex melody of the same name alternates suspense with funk as it builds to a climax which symbolizes the unification of the pair. The bond between mother and child is obviously the subject of Catlett’s “Mother and Child." The same titled track’s tender notes, accompanied by soft, wailing vocals, highlight the purity of this relationship.
Catlett’s “Stargazer” is self-explanatory, so with “Tapestry In The Sky” Reid infuses the piece with a quirky playfulness one might feel when looking up at a starlit sky. “Singing Head," my favorite of the five sculptures and tracks, showcases the depth and fullness of the human voice with some Arabic texturing and funky runs. Finally, Reid chooses to conclude with Catlett’s “Glory” a bust of a black woman’s face filled with courage and strength. The track’s primal quality exemplifies the woman’s grace as it transitions to a hard-swinging mid-tempo.
Once you finish listening to Quiet Pride the first time, you’ll definitely want to loop back to the beginning. This is definitely a recording that makes you think, a hallmark of all good art.
For more information on Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project, please visit Rufus Reid’s website.