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Opening Night: A pianist takes a jazzy stroll down Broadway

2 minute read
Christopher John Farley

On Pure Imagination (Impulse!) jazz pianist Eric Reed takes a sunny stroll down Broadway to where it intersects Memory Lane. Reed, a former member of Wynton Marsalis’ septet, is only 27 years old, but his new album could easily have been titled Pure Nostalgia: the songs he covers in this collection of Broadway show tunes are classic numbers, including Send in the Clowns (A Little Night Music, 1973), Hello, Young Lovers (The King and I, 1951) and My Man’s Gone Now (Porgy and Bess, 1935).

Despite the fact that all the tunes on Pure Imagination are decades old, these renditions don’t come across as dusty or dry; every song sounds like opening night. Reed and his estimable sidemen (bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Gregory Hutchinson) turn the familiarity of these old standards to their advantage. We think we know these songs, and then we’re shown new colors and deeper shades; the result, for the listener, is surprise and delight. Reed’s version of Maria travels through many moods and is, by turns, longing, wistful and celebratory. You’ll Never Walk Alone takes the song into the church, using stately rhythms and forceful piano work to summon up spiritual power.

Reed shouldn’t stop here. Pure Imagination, with its light, sweet touch, leaves the listener wanting more. Perhaps he should consider covering songs from some of today’s hottest Broadway shows–Rent, Ragtime or The Lion King. When a performer like Reed puts on a show this good, he owes the audience a curtain call.

–C.J.F.

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