PERFORMER: Eric Reed (piano); Gregory Hutchinson (drums); Rodney Thomas Whitaker (acoustic bass); Wessel Patrick Anderson III (alto sax); E Dankworth (trumpet); Carolyn Johnson-White (vocals)
CATALOGUE NO: 530 255-2
Keith Jarrett’s withering remarks about the place of world music in jazz, and young musicians’ habit of forsaking standard material, have found some sympathy in jazz circles. Polygram’s two new signings, both pianists, on the Verve and Mojazz labels, might help redress the balance. London-based South African pianist Bheki Mseleku is a passionate post-bop stylist whose turbulent keyboard technique is tempered by South African tones and chanted Eastern spirituality. Joined by older, intuitive hands Joe Henderson (tenor), Pharoah Saunders (tenor) and Elvin Jones (drums) as well as the halting but heartfelt vocals of Abbey Lincoln, Mseleku’s tunes are given a grainy finish without reducing the leader’s emotional impact. His eager crooning and forays away from the keyboard combine to give this session a fresh and spontaneous atmosphere.
American Eric Reed also writes his own material, tough up-tempo stuff. Like Mseleku, Reed is a spiritual young man and has clearly learnt some musical discipline from Sundays spent playing in his father’s church. His finishing school was the Wynton Marsalis Septet. So, in contrast to Mseleku, Reed swings furiously but in close formation with his sidesmen. He says he wanted the debut ‘to exude a consistent level of intensity’, and so it does. A flying right hand that never quite tinkles over the edge of the keyboard and decisive left hand voicings combine to refreshing, hard bop effect. The quintet arrangements are beautifully centred, as are the soloists featured in them; proof, if any were needed, that the reading, writing and improvising jazz tradition is safe in young hands. Garry Booth