ED REED – Born To Be Blue – Blue Shorts Records ER-003 58:27 ****:
(Ed Reed – vocals; Randy Porter – piano; Robb Fisher – bass; Akira Tana – drums; Anton Schwartz – tenor sax)
The jazz scene has been suffused with the bodies of those musicians whose talent fell victim to substance abuse never to recover. Ed Reed has a different story: a fall, but redemption. Now 82 years old and in long–term full recovery mode after years of substance abuse and even some periods of incarceration, Born To Be Blue takes Ed Reed along a path that helps to fulfill his early promise.
Life’s journey in songs appears to be the theme that runs through the thirteen tracks on this disc. While he starts off with Nat Adderley’s ‘‘Old Country” which carries the line “just an old man from some old country”, Reed does not give the impression that this is any kind of metaphor for his view of life. The title track is Mel Torme and Robert Wells’ suggestive “Born to Be Blue” which confirms Reed’s view that the blues are a normal part of any life. Using his warm voice and clear articulation to perfection, Reed runs through a number of ballads such as “Throw It Away”, “All My Tomorrows” and “She’s Funny That Way” — all done with passion and forcefulness. Helping Reed to make the most of his interesting vocal talents, pianist Randy Porter and tenor saxophonist Anton Schwartz take turns with some straight-ahead solos that add depth to the proceedings.
Over the course of the next several tunes, Reed offers cover versions of some recognizable offerings such as Nat Cole’s “You’re Looking at Me”, Johnny Hartman’s “Never Kiss and Run” and Bill Witherspoon’s “Wee Baby Blues”. Reed does justice to these tunes for the most part, and in fact delivers them with a different twist such as a bossa nova on the Cole tune, and a sly bolero touch on the Hartman offering. However on “Wee Baby Blues” he does not have the baritone timbre to get the desired blues effect on this track. Finally, Reed shows terrific form on “How Am I to Know” and capitalizes on lyrics by Jon Hendricks for “Monk’s Dreams,” ably supported by the subtle brush work of Akira Tana.
Ed Reed continues to demonstrate that to live life is to change, and through such a transformation has revitalized his career to an extent that even he might not have imagined.
TrackList: 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.
A 10-year anniversary of Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society gets a welcome vinyl upgrade.