By Tony Gieske
Eric Reed had stationed the grand piano at stage left at Vitello’s Saturday night so as to give his trio members equal exposure — Ralph Penland, the drummer, at stage right and Hamilton Price, his young bassist, in the middle, next to the keyboard.
It was a little bit like a surgeon preparing to operate, but when “Sweet and Lovely” came out in a gently loping version, it was all jazz, reaching back to the richly chorded days of the great Herbie Nichols. The latter was remembered later on in an equally swinging number called “ICHN.”
Count Basie was remembered, too, in the familiar plink, plank, plonk to end this number. Not to mention the warm and wonderful swing — yes, that old stuff — generated by Penland and Price.
“Autumn Leaves” kept things whirling along at a brisk tempo while Reed explored more nooks and crannies of jazz piano history in his own well-balanced way.
“I Got Nothin’ ” was a Reed original in 3/4 time that pretty much lived up to its title, and a Billy Joel tune called “Honesty” could have been called “Triviality.” The leader redeemed them both with his unfailing creativity.
Thelonious Monk, the subject of one of Reed’s recent albums, was the inspiration of the night’s redeeming closer, “Blue Monk.”
Reed began it with a helping of old-fashioned rousing stride, then progressed with nary a dull moment through single finger and block chords to a big band ending. It was a feast for the ear, and although nobody’s feet did their stuff, the ghost of Fats Waller strolled invisibly along.
Price, known for his work with Gerry Gibbs, Billy Childs and Melissa Morgan, got a clear and in-tune sound in comping and soloed with sophistication, a word that pretty well describes the stalwart Penland.
Photos by Tony Gieske. To read more reviews by Tony Gieske, click here.