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Ed Reed: The Song Is You

Turn over the disc and you expect it to read, “Recorded in 1958.” Not that Reed, who last year made such a stellar comeback with Sings Love Stories, suggests here the mellow smoothness of the 30-something Nat “King” Cole wannabe he was in the late ’50s. No, time, age, hard knocks and accumulated wisdom are what make the octogenarian’s raw, scarred and incomparably sage voice so appealing.

Still, the album does have a distinct retro feel, suggesting the sort of album that, once upon a suburban time, seemed most at home with knotty pine rumpus rooms, twilight cocktails and country-club dances. First there’s the Peck Allmond Sextet, which eerily mirrors the velvet-lined panache of Montreal’s Susie Arioli Band, with guitarist Jamie Fox as the West Coast answer to Arioli’s scintillating partner in bygone verve, Jordan Officer. Then there’s the playlist, shaped almost entirely of gauzy gems of prime Ellington, Rodgers and Kern vintage. Most enticingly, there’s Reed’s way with a romantic lyric, as captivating as Cole but more suggestive of the great (if underappreciated) Bill Henderson, shot through with rich veins of Jimmy Scott’s ethereal tenderness and finished off with the effortless savoir faire of Bobby Short.

Originally Published