Saxophonist Bob Reynolds‘ second studio album and fifth full-length overall, Somewhere in Between, comes out tomorrow. He’s previously released 2003’s Live at the Jazz Corner, 2006’s Can’t Wait for Perfect, 2010’s Live in New York, and 2011’s A Live Life. Aside from the iTunes-only Live in New York, all of Reynolds’ previous releases are available on bobreynolds.bandcamp.com, for pay-what-you-want.

Somewhere in Between is an 11-track album that features eight Reynolds originals, and interpretations of three “indie”/”alternative” rock songs: Radiohead‘s “Creep,” Bon Iver‘s “Holocene,” and the Foo Fighters‘ “Everlong.” The core band includes pianist/keyboardist Oli Rockberger, guitarist John Shannon,  bassist Janek Gwizdala, drummer Eric Harland and percussionist Bashiri Johnson. Pianist Aaron Parks guests on three tracks, and John Mayer plays guitar on two. Yes, that John Mayer; the two men attended Berklee together, and Reynolds was in Mayer’s band for five years beginning in 2006. Here’s a video of them playing together in 2010:

The music on Somewhere in Between is mostly built around strong, memorable hooks. The endlessly unspooling, never resolving strings of eighth notes that pass for melody in modern jazz are nowhere to be found here. Harland’s drumming is forceful without the stutter-stop clatter that one gets when most jazz players attempt funk. Reynolds plays mostly tenor, but occasionally picks up the soprano, and on a few tracks he multi-tracks, harmonizing with himself, which works quite well. The combination of guitar and piano is also excellent, laying a thick chordal bed which permits his solos to get quite exploratory, without ever losing the primary thread.

This is a tremendously appealing album. In many ways, it harks back to the 1970s; Reynolds’ tone and phrasing are reminiscent of Grover Washington, Jr., with some Stan Getz thrown in, and “A Love Story (In Three Cities)” reminds me of Keith Jarrett‘s “The Rich (And the Poor),” from 1974’s Treasure Island. In a similar spirit, “Feedback,” one of the two tracks featuring John Mayer, could and should be a massive jazz radio hit—it’s got a memorable hook, and the solos arise cleanly out of the melody in ways that recall Herb Alpert and Chuck Mangione. Mayer’s guitar work is pure blues, shadowed by Rockberger’s organ, and he and Reynolds take turns in the spotlight, gradually building excitement as the band keeps the groove airtight. It would be easy to imagine Bill Withers singing over this track.

Listen to his version of “Everlong”:

Somewhere in Between is self-released; in this blog entryand this sequel, Reynolds discusses in detail (including naming names and showing the math) the process of seeking a deal with a jazz label, and what he makes from Bandcamp and iTunes. A few quotes:

“Fresh Sound got my record, an album I’d not only poured my heart and soul into, but also years of effort and more than $15,000 of my own money (thank you credit cards), and I got a check for $6k and the opportunity to…wait for it…buy my own CDs back from them at a cost of only $7 a unit. Add shipping from Spain and it came to closer to $9.”

“But it would take 5,230 sales for me to break even. Then I could go hire a publicist. But of course by then the album would have been released already, so no one would actually be interested in writing about it or reviewing it. And if sales of my last album are any indication, I could expect anywhere from 150-300 people to go purchase the record. It’s a long road from 300 to 5,300.”

Phil Freeman

Buy Somewhere in Between on iTunes (there is no physical version).

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