For jazz, you have to be there



COURTESY CHAMBER JAZZ SOCIETY Jazz pianist Eric Reed does not try to explain his music - he does not describe the feel of those black and white keys under his fingers or what compels him to string a set of notes together in the way that he does.

For Reed, music cannot be separated from its performance.

"When I am playing, it is purely some aspect of what's happening at the moment," Reed says. "The past and the future are only distance from what's happening in the present."

Reed would not even reveal what the playlist would be for the trio's concert Sunday at the Baltimore Museum of Art, beyond saying that the show would include some standards, a few original compositions and then he is "going to see what goes from there."

The unpredictability of the night is due in part because Reed will not be playing with his usual trio. Instead, he will be joined by jazz greats Buster Williams, on bass, and Al Foster, on drums.

"The idea here was to combine one of the young lions ... with two veteran jazz men with their own following and their own authentic voice," says Liz Sesler-Beckman, the chairwoman of the programming committee for the Chamber Jazz Society, the organization bringing the concert to Baltimore.

As each of the men has such a strong following, Sesler-Beckman expects the concert to be more about the conversation of the three instruments, while still providing plenty of opportunities for solos.

But Reed won't get into specifics about the performance, as he says his music is informed by his environment and dependent on the mood of the day.

"Jazz music is a very free-floating form, and so it is not expected to have this level of sameness every time you play it," Reed says. "It's all about being in the moment and being as creative as humanly possible."

It is Reed's willingness to experiment with different phrasing, to improvise with sound volumes and to play around with unusual harmonies that first intrigued the Chamber Jazz Society.

The mostly volunteer-run organization, now in its 15th season, is committed to bringing world-class jazz to smaller concert venues, the kind that typically showcase chamber music. By moving jazz out of the club setting and into the art museum, the focus is on the music and not a neighbor's conversation, says the organization's board president Bill Murray.

Sesler-Beckman says that at this event the Eric Reed Trio will not be just "sonic wallpaper," and she believes that the audience will be able to hear some of the more subtle nuances of their performance.

"[Eric Reed is] not somebody who is going to assault your ears, but he is somebody who raises a lot of musical questions or just plays around with harmonic ideas."

The Eric Reed Trio plays at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive. Tickets are $27 general admission, $25 for BMA members and senior citizens, and $10 for students. For more information, call 410-385-5888 or check

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