Eric Reed: Black, Brown, And Blue

With singers, solo and trio, former Wynton Marsalis pianist meditates on Monk, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers and more without becoming mawkish

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Since an early close encounter with Wynton Marsalis and membership of his group, pianist Eric Reed has kept pretty heady company, including Joe Henderson. He’s also led his own groups. For his latest outing as front man he has chosen to stay in a mainly meditative mood at slow tempos with plenty of lyrical excursions and bluesy intent.

There is a purposeful warmth to his playing that many listeners will find instantly engaging as he opens up with a medium to fast rendition of his own Black, Brown, And Blue, matched only in pace by Ugly Beauty, Monk’s normally sedate classic given a decidedly perky treatment here.

The two vocal performances were clearly chosen for a little extra colour but are no mere makeweights. Reed seems to relish the chance to deliver some gospel like statements behind Rhone’s forthright singing on Lean On Me and his mainly ostinato-like backing on Pastime Paradise is highly effective.

Elsewhere, as already alluded to, the pace is a sedate one, which could have become slightly tedious in less able hands. The choice of tunes is perfect, including Horace Silver’s Peace (complete with humorous Ornette Coleman quote from his tune by the same name), Wayne Shorter’s Infant Eyes and, interestingly, Buster Williams’ Christina.

Reed wrings out every last drop of emotion from the chosen melodies, without ever reverting to mawkish sentimentality and bass player Alemanno gets a chance to unveil his rich tone on occasion including his own One For E, where the pianist briefly pays homage to McCoy Tyner.

Sit back and enjoy is the order of the day.

Discography
(1) Black, Brown, And Blue; (2) Lean On Me; (3) I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good); Peace; Search For Peace; Christina; Infant Eyes; Cheryl Ann; Along Came Betty; Variation Twenty-Four; One For E; (4) Pastime Paradise; (3) Ugly Beauty (67.36)
(1) Reed (p). California, 24 June 2022. (2) as (1) but add Calvin B. Rhone (v). (3) as (1) but add Luca Alemanno (b); Reggie Quinerly (d). (4) as (1) but add David Daughtry (v).
Smoke Sessions Records SSR-2302