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Eric Reed: E-Bop

These studies by 33-year-old pianist-composer Eric Reed, an alumnus of Wynton Marsalis’ septet, establishes his parameters from the secular to the sacred while revealing the common thread: Reed has prodigious technique and he swings religiously.

The same could be said of E-Bop, not just for Reed, but for his quintet: trumpeter Marcus Printup, tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding, bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Rodney Green-a highly responsive, crisp, clean-sounding bop unit that is able to negotiate Reed’s demanding compositions, particularly on “Perugian Rain” and “Roller Coaster.” Eight of the 10 tracks are Reed originals; the more interesting non-Reed tune is “La Berthe,” which Elmo Hope wrote for his wife, Bertha. Is “Grew-vy” a tribute to Mulgrew? “Ornate” a salute to Ornette? No such rhetorical questions about “Evidence” and “Think of One”; these Monk tunes are mounted together by Reed in an eloquent solo setting.

All tracks are solo on Mercy and Grace, a delightful, gospel-tinged, stride-filled expression of Reed’s deep religiosity. “Down by the Riverside” is a blissful romp; “Come Sunday” captures the true essence of Ellington’s “Sacred Service”; “I Love You Lord” is so reverential you don’t dare breathe; “Gotta Travel On” feeds on its own momentum; Reed’s title tune is a lovely morsel of introspection; and “Amen” bounces along in happy stride until a mighty plagal cadence concludes the “joyful noise.”

Mercy is dedicated to the memory of Reed’s dad, and if you can read the note to his father without getting teary-eyed, you just ain’t human.

Originally Published