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Earshot Jazz Festival Preview: Ed Reed and Anton Schwartz

November 3, 2015
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Ed Reed

Ed Reed

Singer Ed Reed and saxophonist Anton Schwartz met almost 10 years ago in the SF Bay area.  Ed was 78 years old at the time, and just getting recognized as a jazz singer.

Partly due to his love of jazz, Ed has survived drug addiction and multiple prison terms.  Four CDs later, he’s been on the Downbeat Critic’s Poll list of “Rising Stars” for six years, topping that list in 2014.  Read more about Ed’s amazing life at edreedsings.com.

“I started thinking about what I wanted to do next, and I was thinking Coltrane, I wasn’t thinking about Johnny Hartman.  I was thinking about the ballads that Coltrane played, and as soon as I opened my mouth, everybody said ‘Hartman’.  That’s the way it evolved, and it’s really been a lot of fun, people have appreciated it,” says Ed.

The 1963 John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman album is an iconic romantic ballads recording which was re-introduced to music lovers through the 1995 Clint Eastwood film “The Bridges of Madison County.”  Ed and Anton will be playing the songs from that album on November 6 and 7 at Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club for the Earshot Jazz Festival.

“I came of age with that recording,” says Anton Schwartz.  “It helped me through some of my dark hours when I was in college.  I’ve listened to it dozens, if not hundreds of times.  So there’s that ages-old question of how do you honor something without trying to duplicate it.”

Ed:  “We’re doing ‘Lush Life’ in a way that nobody’s done it, just saxophone and voice.  I wanted to do it with just me and that one instrument, and Anton is ideal. And I feel like we’re still growing into it.  It’s all new each time we do it.  And that goes for the rest of the songs, too.  I don’t think we’ve done any of it the same way twice.”

Anton:  “I have to go at it each time without any pre-conception, because you’re telling the story, and it’s my job primarily to be in the moment and see where you’re leading things.”

Ed:  “We try to stay close to the original arrangements, but everything else is kind of free-flowing.  It’s exciting.”

Anton:  “Coltrane and Hartman only recorded six songs, so we’re doing a bunch of other things, all of it from Coltrane, a few that maybe people aren’t as familiar with.”

Ed and Anton will perform at Tula’s this Friday and Saturday with Dawn Clement on piano, Michael Glynn on bass and D’vonne Lewis on drums.

 

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Singer Ed Reed Talks About Music, Drugs and “The Sound of Redemption”

October 20, 2014
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edreed

“The Sound of Redemption:  The Frank Morgan Story” will be showing on Saturday, October 25 at NW Film Forum in Seattle as part of the Earshot Jazz Film Festival.  Frank Morgan was a talented West Coast saxophonist whose life and career were stalled for 30 years because of heroin use and prison sentences.

Singer Ed Reed is one of many subjects interviewed in the film.  He was a friend of Morgan’s, and he has a similar story.

Los Angeles had a vibrant live music scene in the 1940s and 1950s, with nightclubs and concert venues in the Central Avenue area, and it included the “vices” that accompany the night life. Charlie Parker’s well-documented visits to the West Coast inspired many young jazz musicians; unfortunately, many of them also picked up the worst of Bird’s habits:  heroin.

The long-standing culture of racism in southern California (black residents called it “Mississippi with palm trees”) also contributed to drug use.  For example, Ed Reed was an A+ student in high school, but was not allowed to join the debating team, nor was he encouraged to pursue any career other than manual labor.  For some households, selling drugs became the family business.

Ed met Frank Morgan through mutual drug-dealing friends.  To support their habits, they lied, stole, robbed and forged.  Inevitably, they were in and out of San Quentin and Folsom prisons for decades.  Both had to put their musical careers on hold, except for being in the San Quentin All Stars Warden’s Band, which at times included such jazz stars as Art Pepper, Dexter Gordon and Hadley Caliman.

“Art Pepper was crazy, but a great musician.  He played on everything I did with the Warden’s Band.  Hadley Caliman and I did a lot of time together,” remembers Reed.  “I never saw him again after he left for Seattle.”

He was pleased to hear that Hadley Caliman became a beloved performer and educator in Seattle for over 20 years before his death in 2010.  Redemption!

For his own redemption, Ed Reed has spent the last 20 years counseling addicts, alcoholics and their families.  In 2007, at age 78, he released his first CD “Ed Reed Sings.”  Three more albums and recognition from the Downbeat Critics Poll as a “Rising Star Male Vocalist” followed.  His latest CD is “I’m A Shy Guy.”

He says, “If you can free yourself to give most of your attention to the music, it can do miraculous things for you.”  For himself, his work in the Chemical Dependency Recovery Program at Kaiser is “…the meat, the main meal.  Music is the dessert.  It’s taken me places I never dreamed I’d go.  I’ve been on some of the same stages as the greatest musicians in the world.  I’m amazed by that. “

Ed’s favorite part of “The Sound of Redemption” is  “…when Frank  finally gets it.  He realizes that ‘I need to just do my music and it will take care of me.'”  Ed also was delighted to meet and hear young saxophonist Grace Kelly, who was mentored by Frank Morgan.  The film is built around footage of  a concert at San Quentin in honor of Frank, and Grace’s performance is exceptional and very moving.

The past is never far behind, though.  Ed said that while watching a screening of the film at the Los Angeles Film Festival, he suddenly remembered that he and Frank once “…almost had a fight about drugs–I think he accused me of not giving him all he paid for–right in front of this same theater.”  Thankfully, since then he’s had a chance to make better memories.

Here’s Frank Morgan on a television show from 1990, with a stellar performance of “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing.”

“The Sound of Redemption:  The Frank Morgan Story”  shows at Northwest Film Forum in Seattle on Saturday October 25 at 3 pm.  Ed Reed and I will be in attendance, and we’ll have a Q&A session afterwards.

I’ll be featuring some music by Ed Reed and by Frank Morgan this afternoon on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz.

My post on Wednesday will include interviews with the film’s director N.C. Heikin, and executive producer, novelist Michael Connelly.  And on Friday’s Morning Edition, listen for Kevin Kniestedt’s story about saxophonist Grace Kelly, who will appear with the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra on November 4 for the Earshot Jazz Festival.

 


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    Robin’s Nest

    A blog about Jazz, Blues, Latin Jazz, New Orleans, musician's stories and more. My name is Robin Lloyd and I've been involved in jazz radio and the music business for over 30 years. This is my personal blog.

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