It’s a crisp February night in Manhattan, and Vernon Reid is tooling around the backstage corridor at Joe’s Pub after a loud, audacious early set with the Free Form Funky Freqs, a trio of harmolodic veterans including drummer G. Calvin Weston and bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma. In typical Joe’s fashion, tonight’s schedule is mingled, and this foyer follows suit: Longtime Reid colleague and friend, the bassist Melvin Gibbs, is milling around while the singer-songwriter Marshall Crenshaw sits off to the side in a dressing room, tuning a vintage Stratocaster. At some point a lanky, post-adolescent male with hipster gruff on his face sidles up next to Reid, and proceeds to gush the kind of starry-eyed, “You changed my life, man” genuflection no jazz-inclined guitarist, save for perhaps the Police’s Andy Summers, is commonly privy to. This is but one of the dualities that Vernon Reid presents: He’s at once the outré downtown maven and the guitar hero fit for immortality in the Hard Rock Cafe.
“Saw them at Joe’s Pub, pretty good show, it was all improv, they’re amazing sometimes, but inconsistent,” comments one JamBase.com messageboard writer, hitting the bullseye then splitting the arrow.