Eric Reed, Black, Brown, and Blue, Smoke Sessions Records ***1/2

With a title that tips the hat to a Duke Ellington classic there certainly is a fitting grandeur to this upcoming Eric Reed piano album demonstration. Firstly, and this isn't news given that Reed's sound is well known from his days with Wynton …

Published: 8 Feb 2023. Updated: 12 months.

With a title that tips the hat to a Duke Ellington classic there certainly is a fitting grandeur to this upcoming Eric Reed piano album demonstration. Firstly, and this isn't news given that Reed's sound is well known from his days with Wynton going back three decades, there is that consummate authority of the 52-year-old Philadelphia born master who has been making his own records since the 1990s and appears on Wynton Marsalis' classic box set Live at the Village Vanguard 90s extravaganza.

You know from the first notes of Black, Brown and Blue that you need to listen hard given the fine detail at every turn. The title track is a little bagatelle that certainly while authoritative does not take itself over ponderously. There's always been a strong gospel element in Reed's style and you get that given there is a vocal take in keeping with this church background on Bill Withers classic 'Lean on Me' sung superbly by church minister Rev. Calvin B. Rhone. The sheer familiarity of the song is no barrier given how much life Rhone brings to the song.

Eric-Reed-Black-Brown-and-Blue

Reed accompanies with a lot of strength and yet this is a quiet album. Bass and drums are there but often somehow not there. The Ellington connection re-emerges with 'I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)' where there's very still bass accompaniment by Luca Alemanno and some extremely quiet drum accompaniment by Reggie Quinerly. Reed made me think of Junior Mance at this point of the album a little.

A very personal album for Reed as he is now open about his bisexuality. He says: ''It’s time for me to just go ahead and be completely authentic in every aspect of my life. That includes, but is not limited to, being more open about my sexuality and proactively moving into spaces connected with the LGBTQ+ community. I think that would have happened in spite of the political climate in this country and the pandemic, but it’s been hurried along. Those aspects of my life were becoming more bold and more broad, and I could no longer keep them on the margins.”

A very fine album that you simply need to be aware of well ahead of release - the version of Horace Silver's 'Peace' - yes that beloved standard again covered recently by Diego Rivera - and take on Wayne Shorter's beautiful 'Infant Eyes' are both textbook. The album also includes a vocal from David Daughtry on Stevie Wonder’s 'Pastime Paradise.' Out on 10 March. Eric Reed, photo: detail from the Smoke Sessions cover art

MORE READING AND LISTENING:

  • Hear Reed's incredible comping on the Live at the Village Vanguard Wynton track 'Knozz-moe-king'

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Seb Rochford and Kit Downes in duo and the evocative 1950s-esque Maridalen are heading to the Aberdeen Jazz Festival

A hot spot for jazz in Scotland at the moment centred on the Blue Lamp the line-up of the Aberdeen Jazz Festival is: Roo and Neil, Maridalen, Martin Kershaw Octet and Rachel Duns Duo, Atom Eyes, SNJO's Peter and the Wolf, Son Al Son Feat. Tania …

Published: 7 Feb 2023. Updated: 12 months.

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A hot spot for jazz in Scotland at the moment centred on the Blue Lamp the line-up of the Aberdeen Jazz Festival is: Roo and Neil, Maridalen, Martin Kershaw Octet and Rachel Duns Duo, Atom Eyes, SNJO's Peter and the Wolf, Son Al Son Feat. Tania Fahey Palma & Melodie Fraser, Seb Rochford and Kit Downes, Georgia Cécile & Fraser Urquhart, Kyla Brox, Dee Don Danube, The Vintage Girls Orchestral Spectacular, Remembering Chet, Raf Ferrari Quartet, Dock in Absolute / Dave Milligan Solo, Rhyme Lounge Sessions, Gerry Jablonski and the Electric Band, Soundbath, Jazz The Day, Fergus McCreadie and Matt Carmichael, Magro, Funk Connection, Mary May - Best of Billie Holiday, Tim Kliphuis Jazz Four Seasons and Torus.

Seb Rochford who is from Abderdeen readers will be familiar with the recent A Short Diary our pick of the month for January that finds Kit Downes as guide and interpreter of Rochford's compositions and is far less oblique than he can be - and certainly last year's wonderful Vermillion is a completely different aspect to his artistry - and it is fascinating the clarity that Rochford's musical lines delineate. 'Ten Of Us' - Rochford is one of 10 brothers and sisters - is the most significant of the pieces and the drummer is very good here and elsewhere at stealthily entering the musical scene after Downes clears and explains somehow melding serenity with a painterly Debussy like impressionism in some passages expert at creating not just the ultimate culminating note but contributing meaningfully to its if you like after-note meaning via cadential weight and sheer empathy. The album was recorded at Rochford’s childhood home in Scotland and again sense of place is significant here given how often distance from things we hold dear can be such an obstacle even more psychological than physical.

Maridalen from Norway impressed us most of all with their 2021 self titled debut which had almost rockabilly double bass once you get into it with a sort of a Jimmy Giuffre-type atmosphere hard baked into the ambience to boot. Bortenfor the follow-up we didn't quite like as much but it still resonated given the high conceptual level the band achieves. The presence of trumpet - it's Pixel's Jonas Kilmork Vemøy no less - is almost an afterthought because the Maridalen sound is greater than the sum of the parts and is a collective unity. From Norway the band sound as if they were born in a jazz club and yet they made that particular ground breaking first album in a church. Dates are 16-26 March. Website

Seb Rochford, above. Maridalen, main photo