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Eric Reed: Musicale

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Will jazz become a thing of the past once all the greats are dead and gone? These recordings strongly suggest that won’t be the case if Reed and his sizable circle of musical partners have anything to say about it. Musicale is the more thoroughly creative of the two projects. Primarily devoted to Reed originals, it features two different hand-picked ensembles: His usual working trio (Greg Hutchinson and Ben Wolfe) plus Wycliffe Gordon, and a group comprising Karriem Riggins, Ron Carter, Nicholas Payton, and Wess Anderson. Regardless of the specific company, Reed’s sound is always uncommonly expansive and his playing fluent but grooving. While his technique continually impresses, it’s his phrasing and underlying rhythmic approach that communicate most effectively (“Black, As In Buhaina,” “Longhair’s Rumba,” “Blues To Come”) and encourage beautiful work from Gordon, Payton, and Anderson, who artfully color the compositions with hip ensemble and solo work.

As for the second disc, maybe the word “summit” overstates things a bit; however, a collective featuring Reed, Jeff Hamilton, Ralph Moore, and Robert Hurst is nothing to scoff at. While Reed doesn’t play quite the dominant role as he does on the previous disc, he did supply the arrangements. And unlike the previous title where the group sound is as important as the individual efforts, here the idea is nothing new: Get four talented musicians in the same studio and see what happens. Nevertheless, the result is swinging playing from start to finish. Beautiful readings of chestnuts like “Paper Moon” and “Old Folks” provide especially good vehicles for Moore’s rich tenor work and Reed’s uncontainably large sound.

These two somewhat different but equally fine projects form a flattering profile of one of jazz’s most consistent and capable young keyboardists.

-Jim Ferguson