Pianist/Composer Eric Reed Celebrates the Music of Black and Brown Composers on His Deeply Personal New Album Black, Brown and Blue
The Album, Due Out March 10, 2023, on Smoke Sessions Records, Features a Brilliant New Trio with Bassist Luca Alemanno and Drummer Reggie Quinerly
Think of the songwriters whose work comprises the canon of jazz standards, and names like George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter immediately come to mind. On his new album, Black, Brown, and Blue, pianist/composer Eric Reed argues for a revision of that canon to focus on Black and Brown composers, songwriters whose work originates within the jazz realm rather than on the Broadway stage.
Due out March 10, 2023, via Smoke Sessions Records, Black, Brown, and Blue features music written by jazz masters like Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Benny Golson, Horace Silver, Buddy Collette, and Buster Williams, along with jazz-conversant pop/R&B songwriters Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers. In addition, Reed and his bandmates on this thrilling session – bassist Luca Alemanno and drummer Reggie Quinerly – each contribute a new piece of their own.
“Historically, many of the contributions and works of Black and Brown people have either been destroyed, devalued, or appropriated,” Reed writes in his liner notes. As he elaborates, “There has been a back-and-forth battle with regard to who controls the music, who runs the music, who sells the music, and what it should sound like. It basically comes down to a lack of representation.”
Reed points to the early stages of his own career when he was a member of that highly touted generation known as the “Young Lions.” Without dismissing the music created during that period, which he acknowledges was executed by a staggeringly talented group of artists, he regrets the narrow stylistic vision and the carefully controlled image that he was “coerced” to present to audiences. “There was an agenda to create a narrative around jazz that was far too often skewed and extremely antagonistic,” he says.
“When I first started my path in this music, it was under a different, very revisionist type of energy. Where I am now in my life, I’m only concerned about conveying the most personal and heartfelt ideas through my music. I’ve found myself becoming so much more open.”
That openness extends beyond the realization of Reed’s musical choices and into his personal life. Black, Brown, and Blue marks the first album that he has recorded while being completely open about his bisexuality, resulting in what he calls his most “autobiographical” release to date.
“It’s time for me to just go ahead and be completely authentic in every aspect of my life,” he insists. “That includes, but is not limited to, being more open about my sexuality and proactively moving into spaces connected with the LGBTQ+ community. I think that would have happened in spite of the political climate in this country and the pandemic, but it’s been hurried along.Those aspects of my life were becoming more bold and more broad, and I could no longer keep them on the margins.”
There’s nothing about the choice of material or the performances on Black, Brown, and Blue that mark it explicitly as a “coming out” record or a political manifesto. What shines through on these performances is the deep well of emotion and feeling that Reed mines in his playing, his expression, and his ability to communicate on a profound level with his new trio.
Reed points to the example of Art Blakey, Betty Carter, and Elvin Jones, all jazz giants who also took seriously their roles as mentors, as models for his new band with Alemanno and Quinerly. “Working with my peers is wonderful,” the pianist says. “But after a certain point, just like in any relationship, the growth begins to diverge. Art constantly moves, and I know that if I invest my time in younger musicians, they’ll be able to absorb that experience and carry it further.”
“As I was playing I was envisioning that cloud of witnesses looking down and cheering me on,” Reed explains. “I could see my family and neighbors, and all the people I’ve admired: Art Blakey, Betty Carter, Gerald Wilson, Dexter Gordon, Harold Mabern, my good friend Mulgrew Miller. My father. I could see their faces and I could feel their validation. I could sense themseeing me and encouraging me to keep on going.”
Reed calls Black, Brown and Blue, “the culmination of my life thus far. I’m freer than I’ve ever been in my personal life, and I’m freer than I’ve ever been in my music. I’m accepting who I am. I love who I am. And as I continue to evolve – my artistry, my sexuality, and my overall humanity – my music will continue to become more and more personal.”
Eric Reed · Black, Brown, and Blue
Smoke Sessions Records · Release Date: March 10, 2023