Ed Reed

Watts, California was a unique place to learn music. High school talent shows were a part of my life with Bobby Nunn and Little Esther Phillips. Charles Mingus, the jazz master, taught me chord changes while he looked after his sister’s children. After being pushed by my teachers to go to a shoe shop, when I wanted to study debate I quit high school and joined the Army. I was addicted to heroin. On drug-related charges, I spent four years in San Quentin prison and Folsom prison. Partly due to my love for jazz, I believe I was able survive these ordeals. Two of my imprisonments saw me as a featured singer with an inmate big band, Art Pepper playing all my tunes. While I was not working, I performed many “open mics” with jazz legends such as Wardell Gray, Art Farmer Hampton Hawes and Dexter Gordon. I was a singer all my life. But, until Ralph Bravo’s late 50’s, I hadn’t thought of myself as one. Ralph was playing the guitar in the park, to a small crowd of people listening. The sound that he made with his guitar was incredible. Ralph was an exceptional guitarist. Jazz guitar was my favorite instrument. I was a critical and analytical listener to guitar recordings. I can hear harmonics clearly when the guitar is being played. After hearing the first note, I was able to identify Charlie Christian’s sound. I was able to recognize every note of Tal Farlow, Grant Green, and Barney Kessel’s solos. Billy Bauer, Johnnie Smith and Django Reinhardt were my favorite musicians. Since my childhood, I dreamed of being a guitarist. Here was Ralph singing Embraceable You chorus after chorus with the echoes of Charlie Parker in a way that I had never heard before. Every chorus was unique, sometimes subtly so, and the next chorus would have a massive variation but it was still Bird’s Embraceable You. I began singing along without realizing it. He began to play new variations of the old tune, both harmonically and rhythmically. It became an adventure. Ralph smiled at me and had a big smile on his face. That moment gave me permission to consider myself a singer, and I still remember it. That great player was a wonderful mentor to me, and I will always be grateful. It was strange and even bizarre to learn tunes in prison. The radio was the only way to hear new music. Jazz lovers were hungry. Each week, we had only one-half an hour to listen to jazz radio. We developed a system to learn new tunes together. Each of us learned the tune whenever we heard it, often up to 20 at a time. We would then meet up with a guitarist in our yard and attempt to piece together the melody, chords, lyrics. Sometimes, it took many months to recreate a single tune. After 40 years of addiction to drugs, I was finally able to get into a program for drug and alcohol rehabilitation in 1986. This led me to my “day job”. I enjoy program planning, development, training and the creation of a popular health education lecture series called: The Art And Practice Of Being Well. I consider this work as important as music. Many people have been positively influenced by the lecture series. My work is about joy and appreciation for our individual gifts. It was a long process to make my first CD. That recording was made with an amazing group of musicians from the Bay Area and New York. A year later, the second CD was recorded with a diverse group of New York musicians including a guitarist and violinist. It’s been a good life! These records are special to us. These songs are among the most beautiful I’ve ever heard. Many of these songs have stayed with me ever since I heard them years ago. These wonderful songs are my pleasure to share with you. I hope you enjoy them as much singing them. from http://www.edreedsings.com

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