The stars-meet-sea cover art on Steve Reid's Telarc Jazz Zone debut Water Sign is so eyepopping, it almost wouldn't matter if the music was missing. Fortunately, the longtime Rippingtons percussionist backs up the graphics with a just as gorgeously textured tribute to all fluid aspects of the universe, from rain and mountain snow to tropical sea and dolphins at play. Anyone who found his previous solo effort Bamboo Forest a bit overly mellow will find some happy up-tempo redemption here, even if Reid's overall effect is to convey the gentle majesty of the ocean. As a keyboardist/composer, Reid's association with Russ Freeman has rubbed off, with a few pieces almost generating a channeling spirit of that group's best performances. No real surprise, either, since current and former Ripps bandmates Jeff Kashiwa (dreamy on sax and flute), Mark Portmann, Steve Bailey, Dave Kochanski, Kim Stone and Tony Morales lend equal parts silk and grit to the swim here. Yes, that's the whole gang! While other all-stars like Rick Braun and some Yellowjackets abound, Tony MacLaren's multi-faceted guitars stand out above all else. This one's busy, exciting, melodic, and makes you wish that Freeman would have let Reid contribute a few tracks to each Ripps album over the years.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran