Here are a few new, notable jazz and blues CDs:
Jazz singer Ed Reed has the kind of life story ready made for the movies: Charles Mingus gave Reed his first music lesson; he sang in a combo led by trumpeter Dupree Bolton, established a day care center for migrant workers in Los Angeles and helped develop a methadone maintenance program. He was concurrently a junkie in and out of jail on various drug charges; while in San Quentin he sang with the Warden’s Jazz Band.
Reed got clean and sober 21 years ago and started rebuilding his life. Now, at age 78, he’s cut his first album, “Ed Reed Sings Love Stories.”
Reed, a Bay Area resident, looks decades younger than his actual age and sings with the fire of a young man. His voice slides up and down the scale with an effortless grace.
On “Bye Bye Blackbird,” his smooth baritone growl melds effortlessly into a near falsetto melisma that flutters like a bird in flight. “Ask Me Now,” a Thelonious Monk tune with lyrics by Jon Hendricks, gets an emotional reading, his clear open tones full of subtle sorrow. His a cappella performance of “Motherless Child” closes the album with an impressive display that channels centuries of sorrow into every syllable. (“Ed Reed Sings Love Stories” is available online at Amazon.com and CDBaby.)
Cliff Eberhardt is best known as a songwriter — Carl Perkins and Erasure have both covered his tunes — but as “The High Above and the Down Below” (Red House) proves, he’s also a powerful jazz/blues singer.
Eberhardt has a weary, timeless voice, a bit rough around the edges, but full of soul and subtle humor. A jazz trio backs Eberhardt on this effort, bringing a wide range of colors, tempos and textures to the material.
“The Right Words” is a classic song of lost love, with Rich Dworsky’s indigo piano intensifying the longing of the lyric. “I’m All Right” is a merry ode to life’s unexpected defeats augmented by Gospel piano and Eberhardt’s tongue-in-cheek vocal. The title track is a bluesy rocker marked by a growling vocal and the sound of Dworsky’s big Hammond B3.
Since Duke Robillard left Roomful of Blues, he’s delved into almost every blues-related genre of American roots music. He brings all those influences home on “Duke Robillard’s World Full of Blues” (Stony Plain), a two-CD, 23-track celebration of down-home, good-time music. Jazzy late-night guitar and organ jams (“Stoned”) meet Bob Dylan (“Everything Is Broken”) and Bo Diddley (“Who Do You Love”) where ’50s yackety sax and surf blues twang (“Steppin’ Out”) rubs up against sleazy R&B (“Six Inch Heels”).