Eric Reed, For Such a Time as This Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Eric Reed is a pianist, composer, arranger, bandleader, and champion of young musicians who established himself as a central force in the jazz community. His childhood was filled with the rich sounds of his father’s Baptist church in Philadelphia. His schooling included studies with Teddy Edwards, Gerald Wilson, and Buddy Collette. Reed, a bandmember of multiple icons, such as Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, and Buster Williams. Reed’s discography boasts an extensive repertoire of compositions and arrangements and an impressive list of credits in film & T.V. scores, musical theater, and prestigious venues the world over. He has recorded close to 30 albums as a leader that showcases his virtuosic playing, intellectual clarity, and steady swing. For Such a Time as This is his latest album, framed by the global pandemic’s realities. Reed was in Los Angeles in early 2020 when a city-wide shutdown was issued. That influenced Reed’s decision to record For Such a Time as This in L.A. with a cast of gifted young musicians. The group is drummer Kevin Kanner, Australia-born bassist Alex Boneham, and tenor and soprano saxophonist Chris Lewis. Vocalist Henry Jackson makes a guest appearance on one selection.
“Thelonius” is a beautiful collection of Thelonious Monk motifs compiled into a swinging selection. Kanner is given ample space to display his musical and flowing drum skills. Reed’s solo is deep in the swing pocket as his right-hand flaunts effortless phrases of swift melodies. The blues language is always close to Reed’s heart, along with bop, post-bop, and modern melodic devices. Lewis brings the heat from Downunder to perform a stirring saxophone statement. His solo keeps the lyrical focus that the great Charlie Rouse always did when playing with Monk.
The well-explored standard, “It’s You Or No One,” has an exciting re-harmonization of the harmony with band hits and feel changes. The ensembles approach to this standard shows their chemistry and ability to listen to each other on a meaningful and interactive level. Reed is lyrical in his process as he builds his solo through the form to turn in his most potent solo of the date. The rhythm section of Kanner and Boneham is buoyant and flowing, allowing Reed to explore any rhythmic texture his creativity might be inclined to express.
For Such a Time as This is twelve songs performed by an energetic and fluid quartet that brings the set of originals, standards, and Gospel selections alive with passion and authority. Reed is making meaningful music and paying it forward to the next generation. Reed says, “This record is the first I’ve done framed by this kind of specific circumstance,” Reed concludes. “But even though we had to do it with these pandemic restrictions, it seemed normal because we were in the recording studio, where there’s no audience anyway. It’s the circumstances surrounding the creativity that were so different. All of that had an impact on the music.” The result is a beautiful collection of music performed from the heart, For Such a Time as This.