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Ed Reed: Born to Be Blue

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At 82, four years and now three albums into his belatedly re-energized career, San Francisco vocalist Ed Reed continues to captivate. As the title suggests, this 13-track collection focuses primarily on reflective ballads bordering on melancholy. All, says Reed, draw upon his rollercoaster life experiences, including four decades of addiction and four prison stints on drug-related charges. His deft handling of the likes of “Some Other Time,” “In a Silent Tear,” “End of a Love Affair” and the title track do, indeed, suggest hard-earned wisdom, stylistically harkening back to the elegant tenderness of Johnny Hartman while also echoing the intuitiveness of fellow octogenarian Jon Hendricks.

But Reed’s musical autobiography isn’t restricted solely to hardship and heartache. He shapes a richly insightful “Old Country” (astutely propelled by tenor saxophonist Anton Schwartz) and serves up immaculately earnest readings of “She’s Funny That Way,” “Never Kiss and Run” and “You’re Looking at Me.” Most intensely moving are Reed’s hypnotic rendering of Abbey Lincoln’s mystically erudite “Throw It Away” and his joyful wade through the sweetly optimistic “All My Tomorrows.” Jazz history is littered with far too many great talents silenced by drugs. Ed Reed’s personal and musical victories are a welcome antidote.

Originally Published