Drummer Reggie Quinerly is a refreshingly creative artist who is settling into his role as a band leader after spending years on the New York jazz scene as a freelance musician. He honed his craft studying music at New York’s New School University and received a masters in Jazz Studies from Julliard. Not to mention, he has worked with a slew of veteran musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano, and Von Freeman.
Now, he is claiming the spotlight with his debut LP, Music Inspired by Freedmantown, a soulful and enlightening piece of work that is dedicated to a historic neighborhood in Texas.
This project grew out of personal interest for Quinerly, who grew up in Houston, TX and went to school in the historic district once known as Freedmantown, which was established by emancipated African Americans following the Civil War.
Quinerly said the goal of this album was to capture the very soulful essence of Freedmantown’s voice, and from first listen, it’s safe to say he accomplished that goal. A lot of that has to do with the good company Quinerly is in, sharing the limelight with talented musicians such as pianist Gerald Clayton, guitarist Mike Moreno, tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield, and bassist Vicente Archer, among others.
Each song represents the rich tradition of African American music whether it is through gospel chords, blues riffs or funky melodic themes. “A Portrait of a Southern Frame” is a perfect example of how Quinerly showcases this effect on the album. Quinerly’s strong rhythmic presence is heard in the form of a funeral processional and rapid drum solo as trumpeter Antoine Drye plays gradually along with Clayton’s soft presence on the keys, which create the tune’s somber tone.
A sharp contrast to that funeral hymn is the swinging tune “The Virginia Gentleman” which is in the straight ahead jazz style, but also utilizes New Orleans rhythms. Bluesy compositions such as “Fenster,” in which Clayton masterfully swings during his solo, and “A Corner View from Robin Street” highlight Quinerly’s chops on percussion as well as his ability to serve as the rhythmic force behind his band mates. The album also showcases Quinerly’s composing skills. All of the tracks except the standards “I’m Old Fashioned” and “Sentimental Journey” were composed by Quinerly.
One of the most soulful tunes on the album has to be the title track “Freedmantown” in which vocalist Enoch Smith Jr. showcases the resiliency of the African Americans who established the town during Reconstruction. Gospel infused harmonies and Smith’s soft tenor vocals give the tune its collective texture and represent the working-class nature of the Freedmantown community.
There is a lot of creative talent on Music Inspired by Freedmantown and it makes for an impressive debut for Quinerly. One will walk away from this album with not only more of an interest in Quinerly’s music, but with a keen awareness of an important historical period that should not have been forgotten.