Photograph courtesy of Ed Reed
Ed Reed brings two key ingredients to being a great jazz singer: musical talent and life experience. That life experience—and there’s been a lot of it—is in every note he sings.
“I’m sure you can hear it in there,” says the 79-year-old Reed. You can hear the heartbreak, Reed says, in his versions of jazz standards, such as “I’m Through With Love” and “I Get Along Without You Very Well.” “You have to live awhile before you begin to think about stuff like that.”
The Richmond resident has had his share of suffering—through 40 years of heroin addiction and four prison stints totaling nearly 10 years behind bars—before he finally got sober two decades ago.
After finding work as a health educator in Kaiser Permanente's chemical dependency recovery program, Reed rediscovered a love of music fostered by a childhood spent in jazz-infused, World War II—era Watts in Los Angeles (composer Charles Mingus used to babysit at the house across the street). Last year, Reed released his first album, the critically acclaimed Ed Reed Sings Love Stories. He released his second album, The Song Is You, in May and is booked at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland on August 25. The late bloomer’s first gig there was one he’ll never forget.
“I walked out onstage, and they went nuts,” says Reed. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought somebody famous was behind me, and I had to turn around to look.” Reed’s music is available at www.edreedsings.com.