Born: February 2, 1929 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
In his 84 years, Ed Reed has gained great insight into the joys and especially the sorrows of the human condition. The San Francisco Bay Area-based jazz vocalist, who made his recording debut in 2007 at the age of 78, has imparted what he has learned with consummate musical subtlety, emotion- searing depth of feeling, and the nuanced delivery of a master storyteller on his critically-acclaimed CDs. The first two, Ed Reed Sings Love Stories (2007) and The Song Is You (2008)are collections of tunes from the Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, and jazz traditions drawn from Reed’s near-encyclopedic knowledge of the Great American Songbook.
The 13 tunes on his third release, Born to Be Blue (2011) are more thematically focused on the poignant life lessons we all experience as human beings.
His fourth recording project, I'm a Shy Guy, (October 1, 2013) a tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio and their music, reflects Reed's lifetime passion for the ballads and blues of the Trio—a rapidly rising music group, led by pianist-singer Nat Cole—that broke new ground in the 1940's during the era of big bands. Reed poignantly remembers himself as a self-conscious 14-year old in 1943, so shy that he talked to girls by singing King Cole Trio love songs to them on the phone. As a teenager in Los Angeles, Reed had the opportunity to see the Trio perform at his school, Jordan High in Watts and, when he had the chance to meet his hero after the concert, found himself too shy to say hello or shake Nat Cole's hand.
Reed pays homage to the King Cole Trio with 13 songs the group recorded during the 1940s, plus the post-trio Nat King Cole favorite “Unforgettable” from 1951. The song selection includes Reed’s distinctive treatments of the Trio hits “That Ain’t Right,” “I’m Lost,” “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “I Just Can’t See for Lookin’,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” and “I’m a Shy Guy,” as well such lesser-known trio gems as Bobby Troup's “Baby, Baby All the Time;” Louis Jordan's “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby;” the hilarious break-up tune “Meet Me at No Special Place;” the whimsical “’Tis Autumn;” and the longing and regret in I Realize Now, That's the Beginning of the End, and “This Will Make You Laugh.”
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Reed relocated to Los Angeles at age 7 with his family where his father worked as a waiter on the Southern Pacific Railroad and was active in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Ed Reed fell in love with jazz on the radio and, at age 11, and learned how to sing to chord changes from Charles Mingus, his then-teenage neighbor.
Reed’s path to his current profession as a jazz vocalist was circuitous, even torturous. A 40-year heroin addiction undermined attempts to launch a singing career. He was in and out of prison during much of the 1950s and ’60s, yet managed to continue singing. During his last of his three stretches at San Quentin, he performed with the Warden’s Band, a 17-piece jazz orchestra that also included saxophonist Art Pepper.
He got into recovery from alcohol and other drugs in 1986, and by the early ’90s had started singing again in public. In 2005 he attended JazzCamp West, where instructor Peck Allmond heard student Reed at a fireside jam session. The singer made such a strong impression on Allmond that the multi-instrumentalist, along with drummer Bud Spangler, ended up producing Reed's first CD in 2007.
In 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 Reed placed in the “Male Vocals, Rising Star” category of the DownBeat Critics Poll. He was a featured guest on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz hour-long NPR program that aired in 2008, and the subject of a Wall Street Journal article by Nat Hentoff in 2009, along with numerous other reviews and articles in national jazz publications and news media.
Since the release of his debut disc, he has appeared at a number of the world’s most prominent jazz venues, including Yoshi’s (Oakland and San Francisco), the Brasserie Jazz Lounge (Los Angeles), Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley (Seattle), the Jazz Standard (New York City), Scullers Jazz Club (Boston), and Marians Jazzroom in Bern, Switzerland.
Awards:2013, 2012, 2010, 2011, 2008 DownBeat Critics Poll: Rising Star Male Vocalist 2012 DownBeat Critics Poll, Male Vocalist 2011 DownBeat Readers Poll, Rising Star Male Vocalist DownBeat Editors Pick - "Born to Be Blue," 2011 "Jazz Hero" Award. Jazz Journalists Association, 2011.
...possesses all the distilled emotion and narrative coherence of a jazz masterpiece. Andrew Gilbert, San Jose Mercury News, July 2011.
Reed has developed a jazz voice that is distinct—full of the pain, sorrow, love and beauty that go along with taking that long, hard trail through life. All of that is on full display here. When Ed Reed sings don't expect scat—instead look for an intimate story every time. Frank Alkyer, DownBeat, July 2011
...his third CD, Born to be Blue, is his best work...These are ballads, a lost art in music...Reed's phrasing is as distinctive as his improvising. The Mercury News 7/11/11
...eveloping sensuous balladry of Duke Ellington's Herb Jeffries and the controversational intimacy of Johnny the Hartmann in his sessions with John Coltraine. Nat Hentoff, Wall Street Journal, June 2009
A unique voice...nuanced and experienced...sings with straight grace and confidence. AllAboutJazz June 2011
“Time has only enriched Reed’s voice, a hypnotic baritone that suggests Grady Tate via Billy Eckstine … 11 exquisite tracks … What Reed does with the likes of “A Sleepin’ Bee,” “Ask Me Now,” Ghost of a Chance,” “Daydream” and “If the Moon Turns Green” that even Billie Holiday would surely bow to … is transporting.” —Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes, August 2007
“Reed…has a smooth, expressive, and caramel-toned voice, precise diction and exact intonation.” —Jazziz, June 2007
“A jazz singer in the truest sense, Reed absorbed the influences of Nat King Cole and Bill Henderson while honing an idiosyncratic style all his own ... the CD is a gorgeous calling card.” —Andrew Gilbert on The California Report (KQED/NPR), 6/22/07
“[Reed’s] debut disc … is absolutely ravishing from beginning to end…” —James Isaacs on “Here and Now” (WBUR/NPR), 5/29/07
“Sings with the fire of a young man … His a cappella performance of ‘Motherless Child’ closes the album with an impressive display that channels centuries of sorrow into every syllable.” —j. poet, S.F. Examiner, 7/4/07
Where have you been hiding, Ed Reed? The entire jazz world needs to hear you! —Sheila Jordan
Ed Reed,I'm a Shy Guy(Blue Shorts Records, 2013)
Ed Reed,Born to Be Blue(Blue Shorts Records, 2011)
Ed Reed,The Song is You (Blue Shorts Records, 2008)
Ed Reed,Ed Reed Sings Love Stories (Blue Shorts Records, 2007)
I'm a Shy Guy (Blue Shorts Records, 2013):
Tracks: I Just Can't See for Lookin'; Baby Baby All the Time; Unforgettable; Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby; I'm a Shy Guy; That's the Beginning of the End; Meet Me At No Special Place (and I'll be there at no particular time); I'm Lost; 'Tis Autumn; It's Only a Paper Moon; That Ain't Right; I Realize Now; This Will Make You Laugh; Straighten Up and Fly Right
Personnel: Ed Reed: vocals; Randy Porter: piano; Anton Schwartz: tenor saxophone; Jamie Fox: guitar; John Wiitala: bass; Akira Tana: drums
Born to Be Blue (Blue Shorts Records, 2011):
Tracks: Old Country; Born to Be Blue; Inside a Silent Tear; Throw It Away; All My Tomorrows; End of a Love Affair; She's Funny That Way; You're Looking at Me; Some Other Time; Never Kiss and Run; Monk's Dream; How Am I to Know; Wee Baby Blues
Personnel: Ed Reed: vocals; Randy Porter: piano; Robb Fisher: bass; Akira Tana: drums; Anton Schwartz: tenor sax
The Song is You (Blue Shorts Records, 2008)
Tracks: 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, flutes, cornet, clarinet; Jamie Fox: guitar; Russell George: violin; Gary Fisher: piano; Doug Weiss: bass; Willard Dyson: drums
Ed Reed Sings Love Stories (Blue Shorts Records, 2007)
Tracks: A Sleepin' Bee; There's a Lull In My Life; Ghost of a Chance; Bye Bye Blackbird; A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing; Where Do You Start; Daydream; Ask Me Now; If The Moon Turns Green; Goodbye; Motherless Child
Personnel: Ed Reed: vocals; Peck Allmond: trumpet, tenor sax, flutes, clarinets, trombonium, kalimbas; Gary Fisher: piano; John Wiitala: bass; Eddie Marshall: drums
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