trombonist, composer, educator, band leader
Reut Regev’s R*time new CD, “Keep Winning” is officially released on Enja Records.
Trombonist/Composer Reut Regev Celebrates Victories Over Daily Struggles and Global Strife on the Electrifying Keep Winning
The thrilling, eclectic third release by Reut Regev’s R*Time, featuring Jean-Paul Bourelly, Mark Peterson and Igal Foni, is available January 25 via Enja Records
Making a life on the bleeding edges of jazz and creative music can often be a struggle. It’s taken more than five years for Reut Regev’s R*Time to follow up their critically acclaimed second album, Exploring the Vibe, a period full of its fair share of personal and global upheavals. But Regev and her electrifying quartet have chosen to not only persist but triumph; the result is the alternately joyous, ferocious, inventive and exploratory Keep Winning, available Jan. 25 via Enja Records.
Keep Winning reconvenes R*Time, which has become a family band in both literal and figurative terms. Trombonist Regev, who also plays piano and the hybrid flugabone on the album, is joined by her husband and creative partner, drummer/percussionist Igal Foni, while their 7-year old daughter Liana, born between the recording and release of Exploring the Vibe, makes her own endearing contribution.
Guitar wizard Jean-Paul Bourelly (Miles Davis, Cassandra Wilson) and Grammy-winning bass virtuoso Mark Peterson (Ornette Coleman, Stevie Wonder) aren’t actually related, but they formed a strong bond with Regev and Foni during the recording of Exploring the Vibe, when the band was snowed in at the couple’s New Jersey home, where they crafted the music together while battling cabin fever.
Keep Winning was created in a more conventional fashion – not that it’s evident in the music. Regev composed most of the original material while visiting her native Israel, though each piece was transformed by the distinctive personalities of these singular performers. “One one hand, the music for this album is much more composed,” Regev says, “but at the same time it offers a lot more freedom. I’m very receptive to everyone’s ideas, so I keep the music open so that ultimately it’s the way that it’s put together that makes it interesting.”
The spirit of Keep Winning is vividly captured by the cover image, a still life snapped by Foni at a red light in Brazil. The faded, discarded flip flops could be seen as an image of desolation or loss, but paired with the determined title it becomes a more nuanced concept. Despite being worn down, their owner presumably discarded what was no longer useful and walked on, a rallying metaphor for the often challenging life of an avant-garde musician.
“It’s black and white, yin and yang,” Foni says. “There’s plenty of dark stuff in the music and in the world, so we wanted to balance it out with at least a little bit of positivity.”
The same idea is conveyed in the album’s opening track, “The Bumpy Way.” The title refers to an actual path, one of the walking routes that the family takes together near their home. There are three alternatives for a nightly stroll: a short way, a long way, and a bumpy way. Liana provided the melody that the quartet sings together at the outset, with a lyric by Foni bemoaning the roughness of the road but realizing that, “in the end it might be worth it.”
Not that the alternative isn’t sometimes tempting. On “The Last Show,” Regev imagines an epic exit from the music business, going out with a bang in one blockbuster performance. This farewell would be more than a concert; Regev foresees an epic multi-media show worthy of a Broadway theater, with singing, dancing, and a light show to fully tell her tragicomic story. Naturally, even in this fantasy scenario Regev can’t quite leave music behind: “It will obviously be very successful,” she laughs. “I can’t quit when I’m on top, so I’ll just keep going. Haven’t we all been through the ‘last time’ we’ll help a friend move, or a last cigarette, or the last chance we give some guy? So no problem. Anyway, shouldn’t every show be played just as if it was the last show?”
Regev’s breathy vocals highlight the deeply moving “Up in the Sky,” a piece dedicated to the trombonist’s late brother Sharon, who was killed in a car accident at the age of 6. Sensing that the piece cried out for lyrics, Regev tried penning words in both Hebrew and English and looked for a poem that could set to music, all to no avail. Finally she played back the music she’d recorded while composing the piece and free associated. “What came out was this,” she says. “I was 5 years old when my brother died, and I had no idea that stuff was even in my mind. Of course I miss him, but I felt like it wasn’t something I was dealing with on a regular basis. Somehow that crept up from my subconscious, and captures the thoughts I had as a child about his life in heaven.”
“Hard To Let Go” also muses on the mind of a child, in this case Regev’s daughter. The melody comes from a lullaby that Regev sang to Liana when she was a baby, and here explores the way that young children cling to the waning day. “It’s hard to let go of today and believe that there will be a tomorrow,” she says. “It can be hard for anybody to let go of something and believing that if you do, something else will grow out of it.”
“Moovit” is an experiment with moving rhythmic patterns, a characteristic that Foni points out is a trademark of Regev’s sometimes deceptively simple compositions. “Reut has a very particular ‘one.’ You might think that the one is in a certain place, but it’s not. We all have to get used to it, which is wonderful.”
The offbeat swing of the title track, co-written by Regev, Foni and Bourelly, is celebratory while maintaining its serrated edge, while “With a Smiling Voice” is elusive in the way that an upbeat tone can mask hidden meanings. Foni’s bustling “Beware of Sleeping Waters,” which closes the album, stems from his formative years in Paris, taking its buoyant aggression from a negative experience on a gig there.
The lens widens onto the issues facing the world at large on a few tracks, beginning with Foni and Bourelly’s brief but bristling “No Justice No Peace,” a dedication to “all the indigenous people in our world who suffer from oppression.” Ornette Coleman’s “War Orphans,” a piece that the iconic saxophonist wrote but never recorded, is best known from the context of Charlie Haden’s politically pointed Liberation Music Orchestra, through Foni became enamored of the tune through a version by another Coleman alumni, Don Cherry.
The range of emotions represented on Keep Winning reflects the ambiguity of its cover photo, ultimately ending on a positive note despite the occasional darkness or doubt. “This line of work can be a struggle,” Regev concludes. “But as long as we can continue this positive journey and make music together, we can keep winning.”
Photo by Kieran Doyle