Nov./Dec. 2004

Eric Reed / Steve Wallace Duet
November 23 – 27, 2004 Top O' The Senator Toronto
Eric Reed is back in town. I can never forget hearing him solo at the piano when he accompanied a Cassandra Wilson performance during the Downtown Jazzfest nearly ten years ago. Like John Henry, Eric swung his hammers so hard, you thought something was going to break; but he has too much heart to break anything except the sound barrier.

This time, Mr. Reed is onstage at the Top O' The Senator for a week, in a duo with Steve Wallace—a last minute gig to replace Cyrus Chestnut who was diverted by a family tragedy. Consequently, the duo first met before the set, leaving all kinds of musical uncertainties, from moment to moment, about what was going to happen next.

Eric Reed

Not to worry: with two master jazzmen that uncertainty is the edge you ride towards delight. The set started out with a selection of 1930 Tin Pan Alley tunes, now standard ballads, which were treated with enormous respect and affection: Arlen, Rose and Harburg’s lovely “It’s Only a Paper Moon”(1937); another 30’s showtune hit,” You and the Night and the Music,” by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz; Rogers and Hart’s “It’s Easy to Remember”(1932).

Reed’s busy right hand issues a fast, steady flow of notes on the melody with lots of runs around it. His phrasing is impeccable and unique, moving simply through the melody line, selecting notes, leaving delicious, knowing gaps, whipping up lacy trills in tasteful measure. Steve Wallace strokes his bass, on the beat, going from double time to quarter time, now and then boldfacing a line of melody.

Steve Wallace

The mood changes to 40’s Bop when Eric offers Steve the opening chorus of legendary bassist Oscar Pettiford’s marvelous tune,“Tricotism.” While the bass line beats out complex riffs, Eric has fun in the background, comping and quoting back to the 1920’s with “Louise,” and “Savoy,” then moving forward with “That’s All,” and Horace Silver’s “ Sister Sadie(1959).

Eric drills a mix of bebop riffs and barrelhouse piano blues in Thelonius’ “Blue Monk,” goes totally down to the untamed raw in Charlie Parker’s “Moose the Mooch,” gives the set a soft landing on a sweet, lyrical, 30’s note with Gene De Paul’s “Star Eyes,” and the forever-identified-with-Coleman Hawkins “Body and Soul.”

A performance rich in talent, taste, and deep musical tradition. It can never happen again, but surely something like it will probably happen every night this week during this fortuitous engagement.

Report by Stanley Fefferman Photographs by Roger Humbert
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