by Sylvannia Garutch
Tap dancing is not a new concept by any stretch of the word, it has been a vital part of music for centuries. There are several major variations of tap dancing: (jazz) tap, classical tap, Broadway tap, and post-modern tap. The distinctions for the novice (like me) might not be readily distinguishable but are as follows: Broadway tap is rooted in English theatrical tradition and often focuses on formations, choreography and generally fewer complex rhythms; it is widely performed in musical theatre. Rhythm tap focuses on musicality, and practitioners consider themselves to be a part of the jazz tradition. Classical tap has a similarly long tradition which marries European “classical” music with American foot drumming with a wide variation in full-body expression. Post-modern or contemporary tap which has emerged over the last three decades to incorporate abstract expression, thematic narrative and technology. Artist Sarah Reich is at the forefront of revolutionizing the artform in a jazz format and its current resurgence. Further, she is bringing the artform to the next generation by utilizing her feet as a pure and instrumental (pun intended) part of a jazz ensemble.
Sarah Reich is most likely a name you have heard if you travel in the Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Juke Box circles. Reich is a regular touring member of Bradlee’s group. For me Reich is a new name, as sadly I am not a Bradlee follower. Reich however is creating something quite groundbreaking, and I am sure for some this has been an unknown commodity, so harder to put your finger on. Let me be the first to say; I too was apprehensive about reviewing the CD, but when reminded that I should simply view Reich as a percussion instrument within the ensemble, the light finally went on. Yes, indeed this absolutely is the case. When viewing Reich’s work in that light, it is clear and indisputably obvious.
Reich is joined by a cavalcade of cohorts, including Bradlee and trumpeter Mike Cottone being the most recognizable names on the project. That being said, each musician on the project offers solid performances that illuminate Reich’s palpable abilities on the album. The album is adorned with interludes, that travel through a who’s who of tap, juxtaposed against well-penned originals with a Simone original “My Baby Just Cares for Me.” Sung by the inspired Maiya Sykes and accompanied by pianist Scott Bradlee. This tune offers a classic pin point for the album. Whereas tunes like “Gemini Vibe” incorporate a mix of jazz and rap provided by Lee How in a jazz idiom that offers a contemporary sound.
A highlight track on the album is “Baked Bean Blues,” its celebratory sound and resounding horns provided by Danny Janklow on sax, Mike Cottone on trumpet resonates with authority. Janklow digs in with stabs and jabs while Cottone articulates with supremacy. Backed by a swingin’ rhythm section of Jonathan Pinson on drums and Alex Boneham on bass this tune has a deeply felt swing. During the solo section Reich trades eights with Pinson with solid and unshakeable rhythm. The dynamics of her soloing is matchless. Pianist Sam Hirsch is not to be missed, his exuberant soloing and well-placed commentary is filled with soulful jazz parlance.
Reich has created a masterpiece of lasting proportions. Her abilities as a rhythmic percussionist within a jazz ensemble is nothing short of masterful. When you are breaking ground less traversed it can be hard at times to be recognized for what you are achieving but make no mistake this is album is epic. Like me, who was encouraged to open my mind. I also encourage you to just simply enjoy this incredibly musical offering for the groundbreaking project it is. Filled with a deep sense of rhythmic complexities and highly musical performances, New Change is aptly titled. The new guard is here, and her name is Sarah Reich.