Like many artists of his generation, singer Ed Reed saw his career interrupted by drug use and incarceration. JazzTimes magazine recently ran a piece on the Narcotic Farm, a prison for addicts in Lexington, Ky., known for the jazz players who performed behind bars. San Quentin, where Reed did his time, also hosted some notorious jazz players, including Art Pepper, Frank Butler and Frank Morgan. On this Piano Jazz program, Reed describes playing with these and other great players in the prison band.
Reed has emerged from addiction and prison a happy and thankful man. When he sings "Lucky to Be Me," he means it. He says he's been sober since 1986 and continues to work his "day job" as an addiction counselor, though his time is more limited these days given the success of his recent jazz releases. Reed made his professional debut at age 78, with the debut of his critically acclaimed album Love Stories.
Reed kicks off this show the way he kicked off his critically aclaimed debut album: with a performance of "Sleeping Bee." Many musicians learn tunes from the radio, but surely Reed's description of picking out this tune with his fellow inmates takes learning by ear to a whole new level.
Reed and host Marian McPartland also reminisce about Duke Ellington in between performances of two of his classic tunes: "Day Dream" and "All Too Soon." Reed winds up the session with his pianist Gary Fisher performing the title cut from Reed's latest disc, "The Song Is You."