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Eric Reed: A Light in Darkness (WJ3)

Review of album from pianist expressing his spiritual side

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Cover of Eric Reed album A Light in Darkness
Cover of Eric Reed album A Light in Darkness

Eric Reed, a commanding presence on the jazz scene since at least 1990, when he was hired to the piano post in Wynton Marsalis’ band, has always hinted at a deep vein of spirituality in his music, variously expressed in individual pieces as well as in his nods and tributes to Coltrane, Monk and others. Reed comes by that consciousness-expanding naturally, as he was just a child when he helped provide music for a Holiness church in his native West Philadelphia, where he discovered that his piano playing moved congregants emotionally.

He continues that journey with A Light in Darkness, starting with “The Way to Love,” led by singer Jamison Ross and offering a message of hope and positivity referencing the Gospel of John as well as Martin Luther King Jr. On the African-American spiritual “Calvary,” Reed opens alone with a gospel-blues piano incantation. The take is driven by McClenty Hunter’s cymbal swells and flourishes and Tim Green’s keening saxophone, and it provides wide-open space for Ben Williams’ earthy, unaccompanied bass figure; then comes the sweet swing, with one of many gently exploratory solos by the leader.

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