When you think of hard-driving swing, daring expression, sophistication and elegance in artistry, formidable technique and a thunderous sound, there are only a very small handful of contemporary pianists you think of and one of them is most assuredly ERIC REED. But don’t think of him as a just a pianist; Eric is one of his generation’s most advanced thinkers in music.
Born in the musically rich city of Philadelphia, PA. Eric grew up playing in his father’s storefront Baptist church, starting at the age of five: “My father was a minister but he also used to sing with a Gospel group in Philly called the Bay State Singers. He is my earliest musical influence. I also was hit heavily by the sound of Christian and secular music of the 1970s (most notably Edwin & Walter Hawkins, Andrae Crouch and James Cleveland). “ Soon after, young Reed was bitten by the Jazz bug after hearing recordings by Art Blakey, Ramsey Lewis and Dave Brubeck.
Blessed by God as a child prodigy, Eric started playing piano at age two, beginning formal instruction at age five, starting at Philadelphia’s Settlement Music School at age seven. However, he remained primarily self-taught, often confounding his instructors by not learning the written music, but listening to them play it first and memorizing musical pieces note-for-note: “I wasn’t interested in practicing Bach; I was too busy digging Horace Silver!”
By age eleven, his family moved to the greater Los Angeles area and he continued his formal instruction at the R.D. Colburn School of Arts where his theory teacher Jeff Lavner, finally realizing that Eric was destined for swinging, turned him onto recordings of great Jazz pianists: “My neighborhood library had all kinds of hip Jazz albums and I was in there every day checking them out. Everything was there: Ahmad Jamal, Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, McCoy Tyner — it was incredible! By the time I was thirteen, I didn’t realize it but, I had digested all of the standard Jazz recordings that working musicians were expected to know.”
At 18, Eric began touring the world with his own ensembles and recording both as a leader and sideman, making serious waves in the world of music. He garnered great notice with Wynton Marsalis’ Septet (1990-91; 1992-95) and spent two years with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (1996-98), making countless recordings and TV appearances with them. Reed also worked in the bands of Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson (1991-92).