Todd Reynolds: innovative and overlooked

Popular culture leads us to see the world of music through filtered glasses. Oftentimes, these filters only let through the worst of the worst. In the fray, many artists and even entire genres of music go overlooked.

In 1988, a young 23-year-old in Rochester, N.Y., made a name for himself as the principal second violin of the Rochester Philharmonic playing music by the likes of Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky, among others. Almost 20 years later, Todd Reynolds is a self-described “hardcore avant-garde musician.” Reynolds founded the Kronos Quartet-inspired Ethel in 2000 (from which he is now two years removed), with the goal of creating an independent project that would allow him to musically and artfully express himself, while at the same time supporting composers and fearless improvisation.

For almost six years, he was a main contributing performer and composer, but Reynolds says those times have “run their course.” Now, having moved on from Ethel, which is still thriving even in his absence, he is cultivating a budding solo career. His first EP release, aptly titled “Todd Reynolds,” come out this April and he will be joining experimental group The Books on their upcoming tour (which, coincidentally, stops at the 9:30 Club April 17).

Reynolds’ new solo path has helped him learn a lot about composition, and his exploring has led him to discover his “single voice.” Though he is happier now with his musical path, he still looks forward to playing with ensembles because he is “an improviser at heart.” It is his exploratory nature that led Reynolds to befriend The Books.

Having toured with them once before, Reynolds seems youthfully excited about the unique opportunity to “bounce” his work off of a younger audience. “There is a particular kind of listener for The Books,” Reynolds said. “Last time, I knew I liked these people.” Though he and The Books have only been close friends for a year or so, Reynolds was a long-time fan of the unique sampling and mixing techniques used in the production of their music. It is this originality that Todd Reynolds shares most in common with The Books.

When Reynolds listens to his music now, he says to himself, “I don’t know what style that is” (though his friends have labeled it “quantum ambient”). That’s just in his nature . . . to be different. “I just can’t emulate styles anymore to fit in,” says the Steve Reich-ian violinist, who is proudly steeped in minimalism.

Reynolds’ passion and giddy excitement are contagious, and the prospect of experiencing his real-time composition in person in the coming days fills one with a similar feeling. So why, oh why, is Todd Reynolds not a well-known musician? Is it his dedication to the classics, or his incessant strive to drive music forward? He is a true innovator, and if he continues to explore new musical paths he will no doubt open new ones for all of us.

Todd Reynolds will be opening for and playing with The Books on Tuesday, April 17 at the 9:30 Club. Tickets are still available at $15, and doors are at 6:00.

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