Rufus Reid, LUJE & Music for Food

By Wendell Leafstedt

On Saturday, Nov. 7, the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE) performed with guest artist Rufus Reid and his quartet as part of the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend. The concert, held in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, attracted all types of people, including Lawrence students and faculty as well as people from all around Appleton.

This concert is first in a series of large-ensemble concerts presented in partnership with Music for Food, a national organization dedicated to fighting hunger. At each large-ensemble concert for the rest of Fall Term, donations of cash or non-perishable foods will be encouraged. Donations will then be distributed to underprivileged families in the Fox Cities area.

Super senior Leo Sussman, chairperson of the Dean’s Advisory Council, likes that Music for Food “introduces a lot of Lawrence students to a different side of the Appleton community.” At Lawrence, it is easy to forget about what happens off campus.

If anyone wants to learn more about Music for Food, they can contact Kathy Kautsky, the faculty member in charge of the partnership or look online at the Music for Food website. Remember to bring your extra canned goods to the Lawrence University Choirs concert on Friday, Nov. 13 or the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra concert on Saturday, Nov. 14.

In the first half of the concert, Rufus Reid played his bass with LUJE on five different pieces. Reid composed some of the tunes while others were jazz standards. Kimberly-Clark Professor of Music Fred Sturm, the namesake of Jazz Celebration Weekend, composed one song. Each had a different flavor.

One of the most striking aspects of the performance was Reid’s humble demeanor. He always paid special attention to the musicians of LUJE, sometimes preferring to face them rather than the audience. Engaging with the music seemed more important to him than being in the spotlight.

Because of the nature of the bass, Reid played a supporting role in many of the pieces. Reid seemed happy to pluck accompaniment figures while student soloists improvised. One piece called “The Meddler” featured a long duet between Reid and sophomore Christian Rasmussen. In “Recognition,” senior Emily Wendorff sang in perfect unison with a cool wind melody.

Although he is soft-spoken, Reid is a charismatic character. He commanded the stage both when he played and during his addresses to the crowd. Between musical numbers, he would often pause to talk about an upcoming piece. The audience listened intently to his stories.

Rufus Reid’s Quartet played during the second half of the concert. The quartet is comprised of saxophonist Tia Fuller, pianist Steve Allee and percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca. They looked happy and relaxed on stage, smiling and engaging with each other during every piece.

Reid had advice for the musicians on stage and in the crowd: “Whatever you do in your life, keep music in it.” He believes that his commitment to music performance, education and composition has made his life more enjoyable and rewarding. After the last piece on the first half of the show ended he remarked, “We [musicians] need you and you need us.”