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Eric Reed, who spent a week at the Village Vanguard in October with his septet, says the compositions on his new album are a reflection not just of his musical tastes but of what's currently going on in his life. If that's the case, the Philadelphia-born pianist must be living a very good life indeed. The songs and playing on E-Bop exude a relaxed, upbeat air of optimism that suggest a man who's comfortable in his own skin and an artist in full command of his considerable talents.
As the album's title suggests – and as one might expect from Reed's longtime association with Wynton Marsalis and the LCJO – E-Bop is essentially a hard bop affair with a clear regard for the jazz tradition. The opener, "Ain't Nothing Wrong With That," makes obvious allusions to Art Blakey, Horace Silver and Sidewinder -era Lee Morgan, while "Bouncin' with Boo Boo" is a nod to their bop predecessor, Bud Powell. Along with eight stirring originals, Reed also offers reinventions of tunes by Monk and Elmo Hope.
What elevates all this above a mere rehash of music – even excellently played music – that we've all heard countless times before is the warmth and vitality of Reed's playing; his ability to mix technical prowess with grace, soul and deep church roots. With help from likeminded contemporaries like Marcus Printup on trumpet and Walter Blanding Jr. on tenor sax, Reed makes the case that there's room for innovation, imagination and growth within tradition.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.