San Francisco vocalist Ed Reed is a bona fide contemporary of West Coast jazz luminaries: Art Pepper, Frank Morgan, Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray and Hampton Hawes. Unlike that august group, Reed remains to tell his story, and by proxy, theirs' in the bargain. Like this same group, drugs (and in the case of Gray, murder) suspended Reed's musical career. Unlike Pepper and Morgan, who staged much heralded late-career comebacks, Reed did not first record until 2007 at age 78. Neither "late bloomer" nor "rising star" adequately describe Reed any more than "senior" or "elderly" do. These terms might apply to mere mortals, but Reed is something else. When he entered the studio to record his debut Ed Reed Sings Love Stories (Blue Shorts Records) he was fully-formed as a singer and performing from a lifetime of anticipating that very moment.
Since Love Stories, Reed has released The Song Is You (Blue Shorts Records, 2008), Born To Be Blue (Blue Shorts Records, 2011) and the present I'm A Shy Guy: A Tribute to the Cole Trio & Their Music. Reed's performance remains at an amazing, even otherworldly, level. Co-producer and jazz vocalist and educator in her own right, Laurie Antonioli reveals of the Cole sessions:
"On the first day of most recording projects, it takes time to get people settled, get the sound right and hopefully you'll get a few tunes out of the deal. This is not what happened with the "Nat" session. On day one, from the very first song it was all there. The sound, the band, the tempos and interaction. But most importantly Ed was in fine voice and was a real prolike Sinatra or something. I think there are at least five first takes from that first day... My involvement, aside from some minor technical things on the vocal end, was simply to say "Let's keep going." The flow was magical and everyone could feel it... The next day the bulk of the recording was finished."
The danger with such sessions is that it all seems too easy and truly exceptional jazz singing, particularly male jazz singing, is anything but. That said, Reed stepped up and made this recording an effortless affair. Supported by a piano-guitar quintet, Reed spins through better and lesser known Cole book inclusions. Bobby Troupe's "Baby Baby All The Time" and Cole's timeless "Unforgettable" join "It's Only A Paper Moon" and "Straighten Up And Fly Right as the better known pieces. "Can't See For Lookin,'" "That's The Beginning of the End" and "Meet Me At No Special Place" represent the pithier and lesser known Cole classics that comprise this excellent collection where Ed Reed sings Cole like Ed Reed and not someone imitating Cole. It is this touch that makes I'm A Shy Guy: A Tribute to the King Cole Trio & Their Music so exceptional.
I Just Can’t See For Lookin’; Baby Baby All The Time; Unforgettable;
Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby; I’m A Shy Guy; That’s The Beginning
Of The End; Meet Me At No Special Place; I’m Lost; ‘Tis Autumn; It’s
Only A Paper Moon; That Ain’t Right; I Realize Right; This Will Make
You Laugh; Straighten Up And Fly Right.
Ed Reed: vocals; Randy Porter: piano; Anton Schwartz: tenor saxophone;
John Wiitala: bass; Akira Tana: drums.