WBGO Radar

Eric Reed: Groovewise

Pianist Eric Reed's CD Groovewise

With "Groovewise" pianist Eric Reed offers the latest in the series of recordings captured live at Smoke club in New York. A vibrant quartet, it features saxophonist Seamus Blake, bassist Ben Williams and past Reed bandmate Gregory Hutchinson on drums.

"Powerful Paul Robeson," a Clifford Jordan tune from the 1970s, opens things and quickly shows the symmetry at hand. A spur of the moment decision to do this one came as Jordan's wife, Sandy, entered the club. The way it comes off, you'd think they'd rehearsed it more than once...the caliber of musicians here can do things of that nature.

Eric's "Until The Last Cat Has Swung" is an exploring tribute to musicians recently lost, including Donald Byrd, Mulgrew Miller, Marian McPartland, Cedar Walton, and, most recently, bassist Dwayne Burno.

"Manhattan Melodies" is a revisit from Reed's 1998 recording of that name, of which drummer Hutchinson was part. As Eric commented, "I figured we'd do a couple of old things just to make sure the vibe was still there." It is.

"Gentle Giant," an original Reed wrote for Mulgrew Miller, has Blake lay out, as the trio gives a dramatic tribute. Reed's playing here shows he's in top form, the threesome's progression a joy to hear.

Eric describes "Ornate" as ornately Ornette (as in Coleman). Here the melody moves around the chord changes, which Reed says came after. I'm not sure how that works but it does. Probably explains why I'm a disc jockey and not a noted musician.

Christian McBride wrote "In The Shade of the Cedar Tree" for his friend and pianist Cedar Walton. As Reed noted, "every time I sit at the piano it's all the older cats who are propping me up. This one just seemed right." Here, this one breaks away from the original, giving a relaxed easy feel for these four to explore.

When writing "Bopward" specifically for the Smoke date, Reed let a bopish scenario paint the picture. His lines are first rate, and there's some nice interplay with Hutchinson, as Williams and Blake show they're on the same page.

"Una Mujer Elegante" was written by the pianist for Marian McPartland in the late 90's. It speaks loudly in quiet tones, in tribute to the lady who brought her countless piano conversations to audiences around the world.

After Reed introduces "Groovewise" with his church roots, there's bluesy folksy display of a real connection between four very distinctive voices. This one will make you put all your money in the plate when it passes by.

"Groovewise" comes out September 9th. Eric Reed will have his trio at The Village Vanguard September 16 - 21st.

   - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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