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More weekend jazz

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Eric Reed
  • Eric Reed
As I wrote in a blog post last week, fall offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to live music. In this week's Soundboard the Reader covers 14 artists playing in town over the next week (plus two festivals), but of course that's just scratching the surface. I'll write about more upcoming shows tomorrow, but for now here's a look at some jazz action this weekend that didn't make it into our print coverage. Tonight accomplished mainstream postbop pianist Eric Reed kicks off a four-night stand at the Jazz Showcase with his trio, and tomorrow night famous frizzy-haired guitarist Pat Metheny plays a sold-out show at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Reed is a Philadelphia native who got his start leading neobop group Black Note in the early 90s, a product of the "young lions" craze of the time—a trend that began with the ascent of Wynton Marsalis. In fact, Reed played with Marsalis in the 90s, both as a member of the trumpeter's septet and with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Earlier this year the pianist released The Dancing Monk (Savant), a program of tunes by Thelonious Monk with a title track by Reed. In his liner notes he points out that it's very difficult to separate Monk the composer from Monk the pianist, as his jagged melodies and sophisticated, off-kilter timing were practically synonymous with his wholly original compositional style. Still, when I first heard the record, it sounded like Reed had polished up the tunes, sanding away their irresistible idiosyncrasies. On further listens, though, I remembered that Reed is a mainstream player who neither needs nor wants to mimic Monk's sound; he's being himself, not disrespecting the master. The melodies are instantly recognizable and there's a warm grace to the performances that smooths out some of the rough edges but retains the visceral tunefulness. Below you can check out "The Dancing Monk."

Eric Reed Trio, "The Dancing Monk":

In June Pat Metheny released the solo guitar album What's It All About (Nonesuch), the first record he's made without a single original composition. He was inspired to make the record—which features versions of tunes he's loved for years, some even before he began to play—when preshow visitors or members of tech crews would hear him play this kind of stuff during sound check and inquire which record a particular song was on.

I'll be honest: I admire Metheny's talent, but I've never liked his music. So I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the album opener, a take on "The Sound of Silence" that resonated with a beautifully melancholy tone. It turns out that Metheny played it on a freakish-looking 42-string custom-made Pikasso guitar, which he's used on some previous recordings. For most of the other pieces, including the Association hit "Cherish," the surf-rock standard "Pipeline," and the Delfonics classic "Betcha by Golly, Wow," he used a baritone acoustic guitar. The performances are immaculate, filled with subtle melodic filigree, sophisticated dynamics, and nonchalant rhythmic variation, but they also bore me to tears. If you've already got tickets to the show—a duo set with bassist Larry Grenadier that will mix tunes from the new album with material from Metheny's vast back catalog—you probably already have the record and don't care what I think. If you're curious, you can check out the video below of Metheny playing the Beatles number "And I Love Her."

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