Drummer/composer Reggie Quinerly’s Music Inspired by Freedmantown is perhaps the historical work that the Houston-born artist always wanted to make. What makes it more interesting is that this is his debut recording.
The album pertains to the history of his native Houston and reveals an education in “soulful essence,” so to speak. “Over time, I began to discover how this area became home to Houston’s largest population of African-American homeowners immediately following the Emancipation Proclamation,” says the 31-year-old. “I learned how its history has played a significant role in the advancement of racial and economic equality, impacting the lives of all Texans from then on.”
Quinerly is joined by Tim Warfield (tenor saxophone), Mike Moreno (guitar), Gerald Clayton (piano), Vicente Archer (bass), Antoine Drye (trumpet), Matt Parker (tenor saxophone), and Corey King (trombone). Vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles sings on “Victoria” and two tracks feature the services of vocalist, pianist, organist, lyricist, and arranger Enoch Smith Jr.
“#13 A Corner View from Robin Street” sets the tone with an ode to a street in Freedmantown. The piece features Quinerly’s soon-to-be-signature swing groove and soloing from Warfield and Clayton.
Featuring the music of Quinerly and the lyrics of Smith Jr., “Freedmantown” is a poignant song that benefits greatly from its old school soul mood. The vocals are pitch-perfect, delivered in soft tenor with accents provided by a set of warm horns from King and Drye.
Along with the soul and traditional jazz of Music Inspired by Freedmantown, the record delves into the bossa nova on “Live from the Last Row.” This piece features Moreno’s guitar in lovingly fluid fashion.
Like all great artists, Quinerly also knows how to function in service of the whole work of art. He prudently steps into the background at times, not even appearing on the divine “Victoria.” The piece features Charles and Clayton in a radiant, subtle duet. The Quinerly-penned melody is elegant and lush, but it’s also not too contained. It lets Charles have plenty of room to stretch out her wondrous vocal talents.
All in all, Quinerly’s Music Inspired by Freedmantown is an impressive debut. His passion for Houston and its history is apparent with every note and composition. His playing is on-point and sharp without being overbearing. And his patience and tenacity for space is exciting.