John Wesley Reed Jr.
Composer, Arranger, Accomplished Pianist, Music Theory & Composition Scholar
As a composer, I produce and create literal pieces for piano, choir, and
orchestral jazz, including aesthetic compositions, professional
arrangements, and private studio work.
My Jazz Story
Published on: 2016-05-17
My love for Jazz grew out of extraordinary performances by classic Jazz musicians in the early 1960s. Their spontaneity of creating as they performed charged me to learn
as much about improvisation, composition, and the theory of making this music. Therefore, my quest manifested a love not only for the genre, however for the musicians
behind it. I found that jazz was a universal musical language.
My first exposure came from listening to WAAA-FM Radio Station in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at the age of nine. The station dedicated its format to Standard and
Mainstream Jazz during the 1960s-1970s. My favorite radio personality was
Robert (Bobcat) Roundtree. He would brief listeners on the performing artists as well the recorded dates and record labels.
I first experienced meeting a Jazz musician with Count Basie when he presented a Jazz Symposium and Concert with The Count
Basie Orchestra at Winston-Salem State University in 1973. My next experience was meeting George Duke at The Birchmere in
Alexandria, Virginia in 2010. There, George Duke invited me to play on stage with him and the ensemble, and we jammed to
“I Wish” by Stevie Wonder.
The best show I ever attended was Stanley Clarke at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia. Stanley performed with such vigor that
transformed the audience to the state that listeners internalized his bass playing and musical thoughts.
I would be remiss to say that the first Jazz record I bought was “Hot Buttered Soul” by Isaac Hayes. Even though it played as
Rhythm and Blues in radio format, the album fused Jazz with its orchestral elements and embellishments. Future Jazz purchases progressed from that point.
My advice to new listeners is to capture the liner notes; meaning, learn the personnel and their instruments. Then, observe the composers and arrangers of the selections
with the instrumentation preferences. Ignore prior reviews by having an empty slate to which to make self-perceptions and evaluations. Listen for depth in writing as well
as artist concept including the performers’ technique and interpretations. By doing this, as a listener, the personalities are more likely to appear. Allow your ears, heart,
and soul to fascinate Jazz greatness by not listening mindlessly.