Ed Reed: The Song Is You (2008)
Ed Reed is a storyteller, one who pours both his heart and nearly 80 years of life experienceswhich include vocal studies with Charles Mingus, time in the army and a drug addiction that landed Reed in prison on four separate occasionsinto a phrase. On his recent first recording, Love Stories (2007), he debuted a lush tone that belied his age.
Here, the inclusion of violinist Russell George's superb jazz phrasing as a part of Peck Allmond's sextet, coupled with Reed's own expressiveness, takes this session from good to great. Reed and company serve as tour guides using tempo and timbre to present exceedingly fresh takes on a selection of songs that leans almost exclusively on the Great American Songbook. The wonderfully contrasting sounds of voice, violin, Jamie Fox' guitar and Allmond's tenor sax imbue new depth to these beautiful ballads. There is heavy representation from Duke Ellington; "It Shouldn't Happen to a Dream," "All Too Soon" and "I Didn't Know About You" all receive exquisite treatment. His "Don't You Know I Care" also benefits from a Latin lilt courtesy of Allmond's flute and drummer Willard Dyson's rhythm. These odes to love and love lost are Reed's forté and a beautiful guitar/vocal duet makes touchingly strong statements on "I'm Through with Love" and "Here's To Life."
While the ballads stand out, in the context of this larger and more varied group of musicians Reed also stretches out a bit with fine results. He swings on the title cut and on a version of "Lucky To Be Me" whose underpinnings are driven by pianist Gary Fisher. A rendering of the Rodgers-Hart chestnut "Where or When" has bassist Doug Weiss, Fox and George drawing on Reinhardt/Grappelli phrasing while Reed extends boundaries by improvising a new section. Those who, upon hearing Reed's first release, said "They don't make albums like this anymore" will again be pleasantly surprised.
Track Listing: The Song Is You; It Shouldn't Happen to a Dream; Where or When; I'm Through With Love; All Too Soon; I Get Along Without You Very Well; I Didn't Know About You; Don't You Know I Care; Lucky to Be Me; Don't Like Goodbyes; It Never Entered My Mind; Here's to Life; Black Is.
Personnel: Ed Reed: vocals; Peck Allmond: trumpet, tenor sax, flute, clarinet, cornet; Willard Dyson: drums; Gary Fisher: piano; Jamie Fox: guitar; Russell George: violin; Doug Weiss: bass.