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Ed Reed

Ed Reed didn’t make his recording debut until just before his 78th birthday in 2007 with the widely acclaimed “Ed Reed Sings Love Stories,” followed in 2008 by his second CD, “The Song Is You.” Both recordings are exquisitely conceived and tenderly executed collections of sophisticated tunes from the Great American Songbook. The third CD, “Born to Be Blue” (2011), in the words of one reviewer, “possesses all the distilled emotion and narrative coherence of a jazz masterpiece.” His fourth recording project, a tribute to the 1940s music of the King Cole Trio and their music (2013) was released to high critical acclaim, includling a 4-star DownBeat review (12/13) and selection as a DownBeat Editor’s Pick (10/13).

Reed was born on February 2, 1929, in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1936, the family relocated to Los Angeles where his father worked as a waiter on the Southern Pacific Railroad and was active in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. At age 11, Reed learned how to sing to chord changes from his neighbor’s younger brother, then-teenage bassist Charles Mingus. The bebop bug bit Reed around 1944, when he first heard Charlie Parker on record. He began to sing on talent shows hosted by pianist Hampton Hawes and others at the Club Alabam and Last Word on Central Avenue and the Trophy Dash in Hollywood, and on amateur nights at the Lincoln Theater. At 17, he dropped out of school, ran away from home, and joined the army. While stationed at Oakland Army Base, he sold marijuana to supplement his meager military income and started to use heroin. He left the service after 30 months with a general discharge. Back in Los Angeles, Reed ahd his first professional engagements as a vocalist with a combo led by now-legendary trumpeter Dupree Bolton, but his addiction to drugs quickly undermined his singing career.

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