Rufus Reid

Rufus Reid

Fellow: Awarded 2008
Field of Study: Music Composition

Competition: US & Canada

Although he has made his mark as a bassist, Rufus Reid actually began his musical career with the trumpet.  Born in Atlanta and raised in Sacramento, he played the trumpet all through junior high and high school.  However, during his years as a trumpet player in the United States Air Force, he discovered his interest in the bass.  After his discharge from the Air Force, he began serious study with James Harnett of the Seattle Symphony, and then moved on to Northwestern University, where he worked with Warren Benfield and principal bassist Joseph Guastefeste, both of the Chicago Symphony, and earned a B.M. in double bass performance in 1971.

Often called a chameleon, Rufus Reid  made over 400 recordings over the next decades.  The musical prowess he developed over his forty-year career allows him to move with perfect comfort among an array of performance settings.  He has performed and recorded with Eddie Harris, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Benny Golson, Jack DeJohnette, J. J. Johnson, Nancy Wilson, and Andrew Hill, to name a few.

He has also performed and recorded with André Previn, Kathleen Battle, and the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra in 1992.  That year he also twice performed Two Faces, a concerto for solo double bass and jazz trio that Benny Golson composed especially for him; he debuted it with the Wayne Chamber Orchestra at William Paterson University, and then presented it again in its New York premiere at Alice Tully Hall in October.

Also known as an exceptional educator, Rufus Reid has taught clinics and workshops all over the world.  The bass method he presents in his book and DVD The Evolving Bassist is recognized as the industry standard.  Bass Player magazine awarded Mr. Reid its Jazz Educator Achievement Award in 1998, and the New Jersey chapter of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) honored him as Outstanding Educator of 1999.

As one of today’s premiere bassists on the international jazz scene, and with his reputation as an educator also firmly established, Mr. Reid next added composition to his list of skills.  After participating in the BMI Jazz Composer’s Workshop for five years, he was well prepared to move more deeply into the composing arena, writing for string orchestra, jazz ensembles large and small, and double bass ensembles.

His stellar abilities as a composer were quickly recognized with a number of major awards.  For his composition Skies over Emilia he won the Charlie Parker Composition Award; with that award’s commission he composed Whims of the Blue Bird.  With the generous support of a commission from The Chamber Music America New Works grant, funded by the Doris Duke Foundation, he created Linear Surroundings, a composition of four movements ("Shadow Chasing," "Moods," "The Peaceful Flame," and "Collage").  Two more major commission awards followed in 2006–the Sackler Composition Commission Prize and the ASCAP/IAJE Composition Commission in honor of Billy Strayhorn.  The resulting pieces were, respectively, the four-movement work Quiet Pride, which was inspired by the sculptures of Elizabeth Catlett and debuted at the University of Connecticut in March 2007, and Hues of a Different Blue, a big band composition that premiered at the 2007 IAJE convention in New York City. He also was given a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts in 2006.

In recognition of his lifetime achievements and contributions to music, Mr. Reid has received a number of other awards:  the IAJE Humanitarian Award (1997); the Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Society of Bassists (2001); and the Mellon Jazz Living Legacy Award (2005), for his dedication to jazz, one of America’s cultural treasures, and for his personal and professional commitment to jazz education.

Always seeking new ways to express himself musically, Rufus Reid is indeed "the evolving bassist."

Scroll to Top