COLUMBIA — Leaning forward in his chair, nodding his head and tapping fingers to the beat, renowned jazz bassist and composer Rufus Reid listened to the Hickman High School jazz band perform. The Rufus Reid Trio, which includes percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca and pianist Steve Allee, visited Hickman on Monday to talk music and put on a show for the students.
Each member of the trio came up on stage to give advice to the students and director Denis Swope.
As Reid told students to “exaggerate dynamics” and to “support the sound in the long tones,” he flipped through the score. Reid helped students through the climax of the piece.
“Break it down to the half beats,” Reid said.
Encouraging students to release at the end of a phrase together, Reid swiftly moved his hands to stop the band and then slowly raised them to indicate students should play louder.
“That’s it. Now remember to do that before you go on to the next phrase,” Reid said.
Allee jumped on piano to show the band how the “leader of the rhythm section” can play differently to change the sound of the piece, and Da Fonseca coached the percussionists through the section.
“I think that students listening to working musicians and receiving hands-on help is an invaluable experience,” Swope said. “It reminds us to add to things to make us that much better.”
“These students show that there were some really strong individuals in this ensemble,” Reid said. “They came out playing really well, made it easy for comments and were able to apply our suggestions.”
Reid has been a leader in jazz education since 1971, when his professional career began in Chicago. He has been the recipient of many awards, including the distinguished achievement award, the highest honor from the International Society of Bassists.
His book, titled “The Evolving Bassist,” has been published since 1974 and continues to be recognized as the industry standard for definitive bass method.
After a critique of two songs, the trio gave the students an opportunity to ask questions before giving their own performance.
Students were invited to bring chairs close to the trio to know what it feels like to be in on the rhythm section. The trio played a favorite piece of Reid’s, followed by one from their new album, “Out Front,” which was released Monday.
Breaking the song down into three Latin-inspired sections by their Brazilian percussionist, students had the opportunity to listen to each specific compiled rhythm to try to pick out music techniques they observed. “I pushed them in this session to be more vocal,” Reid said. “I like to hear what they already know and are learning.”
Before leaving the students, Reid gave them advice to “be friendly with the piano at all times to help with understanding chords on any instrument.”
Reid describes his ensemble as knowing the tradition of rhythm very well.
“Chemistry of this trio is special,” Reid said. “You meet a lot of people, but this is one of the few groups that can’t explain how well we work together. It just makes the music that much more special.”
The Rufus Reid Trio will also be at Rock Bridge High School and the MU Concert Jazz Band on Tuesday for master classes and performances.