[JPL] Stormy Weather for Soloists as Battles Rage All Around

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 14 17:53:29 EDT 2007

June 14, 2007
Music Review | Eric Reed Quintet 
Stormy Weather for Soloists as Battles Rage All Around

When a jazz club audience completely rolls over for a
band and gives it full license, the band can do
extraordinary things — instinctive, daring, almost
unreasonable things.

This is what happened with the pianist Eric Reed’s new
group at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on Tuesday night: The
crowd was already feeling excitable, and the band fed
off that feeling, shooting back with force. 

The set was, in one sense, your basic, modern
small-group post-bop, strings-of-solos and all. But
form doesn’t determine everything. Mr. Reed is an
intensely upbeat presence. Where most jazz pianists
after McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock grew
introspective, he has gone the other way, toward
harder work with the right hand and bright harmonies. 

His latest band is a quintet with two tenor
saxophones, a setup with some pedigree but perhaps not
enough respect. You think of Sonny Rollins and John
Coltrane in “Tenor Madness” from 1956 or Johnny
Griffin and Eddie Lockjaw Davis’s stormy pair-ups from
the early ’60s, and you think of battles. If anyone
can create a platform for benign competition, it’s Mr.
Reed. But there are other things going on here too. 

The two saxophonists are Seamus Blake and Stacy
Dillard. Mr. Blake has been around New York since the
early ’90s, working with the drummer Victor Lewis and
figuring out his own kind of jazz-rock with his band,
the Bloomdaddies; his playing has cheer, momentum and
a kind of happy bluster. 

Mr. Dillard arrived much more recently, and he sounds
like the next step forward. On Tuesday his playing was
fast and technically advanced, with a sure tone and
modest projection (he was the quieter of the two
players); he could make a long, fast phrase with a lot
of well-placed notes sweep along like a single breath.
He sounds natural, self-possessed even at high speeds.

Mr. Dillard and Mr. Blake were working off each
other’s energy, one following the other, and it worked
well enough. But at the peak of one piece (Blue
Mitchell’s calypso “Fungii Mama”), they improvised
simultaneously, soloing in the same pitch area to make
a dense mash of sound. It was a simple enough idea
that didn’t go on for very long — no solo went on for
very long, all through the set — but an extremely
powerful one. 

At the same time, though, Mr. Reed and his drummer,
Willie Jones, were locking in furiously, threatening
to take the focus off the saxophonists. People tend to
think that the solos are the meat of a jazz gig, where
the real ideas arrive, but here there was a fantastic
tension between the power of the front line and the
power of the rhythm section. (Marco Panascia was the

Working in fast tempos (especially in Pat Metheny’s
“Elucidation,” with chord changes every other beat),
the pianist and drummer cranked up their energy almost
perversely high, adding tiny phrases and fills but
never releasing control of the hard swing. 

And they didn’t let up. Through the last piece, Herbie
Hancock’s “Eye of the Hurricane,” the set didn’t reach
a peak and then sag; it just kept getting more tense. 

The Eric Reed Quintet performs through Sunday at
Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz
at Lincoln Center, 60th Street and Broadway; (212)
258-9595 or jalc.org.


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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