Bassist and composer Rufus Reid ’71 has been an active presence in the jazz world since the 1970s. He has toured and recorded with Eddie Harris, Nancy Wilson, Harold Land and Bobby Hutcherson, Lee Konitz, the Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Dexter Gordon, J.J. Johnson, Art Farmer, Stan Getz, Kenny Burrell, Kenny Barron, and countless others.

Reid is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and three MacDowell Colony Awards for composition. His album Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project received two Grammy Award nominations in 2015. Reid’s bass method book The Evolving Bassist was first published in 1974.

Born in Atlanta and raised in Sacramento, Reid played the trumpet through junior high and high school. Upon graduating high school, he entered the United States Air Force as a trumpet player. After fulfilling his military duties, Rufus pursued a career as a professional bassist. He graduated from the Bienen School of Music in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in double bass performance.

What made you choose the Bienen School of Music?

At that time, Warren Benfield was on the bass faculty and he was also a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s double bass section. Also, Evanston was a suburb of Chicago, where I needed to work to help pay for school.

Which professors influenced you most during your time at the Bienen School of Music

Professors Fred Hemke (saxophone and senior associate dean), Bernard J. Dobroski (music education), and John Paynter (director of bands)

Tell us about a particular experience that impacted you during your time at the Bienen School of Music.

As a jazz musician, the world of European classical music opened up to me, truly, for the first time.

What lesson did you learn at Bienen that has continued to resonate with you in your career?

Music that is solid will become timeless.

Top three of your Desert Island Discs (any genre)

Miles Davis – My Funny Valentine
Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet
Shirley Horn – Here’s To Life


Rufus Reid with Sullivan Fortner "Always in the Moment"

  • alumni
  • Bernard Dobroski