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Eric Reed Quartet at Smoke

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A garrulous Eric Reed traveled from his teaching gig at the University of Tennessee to lead a quartet at Smoke on March 9, 2023. Before the first set began Reed delivered lengthy commentary on Miles Davis, Benny Golson and the recently deceased Wayne Shorter, and included compositions by the latter two in the opening set. His sidemen included saxophonist Chris Lewis, bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Kendrick Scott. Compositions from Reed's 2023 Smoke Sessions album Black, Brown and Blue were also featured in the set.

On the opening tune, Shorter's "Yes or No," energetic solos emanated from Lewis and Reed whose theme and variations iteration contained strong head statements with variations that were largely invariable. Scott supplied intriguing "stick on stick" pyrotechnics in his lengthy solo with solid support from Douglas. Golson's popular swing tune "Along Came Betty" followed in a tempo that reflected a performance given over 40 years ago by Pat Martino.

Reed delivered a sustained tribute to jazz figure Herbie Nichols whose musicianship greatly influenced Reed, long ago inspiring his dedicatory composition "ICHN." A vibrant rendition of Thelonious Monk's tune "Thelonious" followed with sublime soloing from Reed and Lewis.

The Quartet performed with dexterous synchronicity and precise jazz conversation which has been a hallmark of hard bop and post-bop groups performing at Smoke since its inception. The small stage and clear audience sight lines demand a cohesiveness other present-day jazz rooms have not focused upon. They present wide varieties of musical stylists so that their audiences can continually expand. This is all fine, of course, but the small, tight, hard bop groups featuring such leaders as Horace Silver, Bud Powell, Clifford Brown, Lou Donaldson, Art Blakey and others were the essence of the magic in rooms like Basin Street, (the old) Birdland, the Five Spot, Fat Tuesday's, Sweet Basil's, and similar venues of yore.

Smoke has recaptured that essence and its new edition continues the tradition of that synchronous magic.

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