Philadelphia-born pianist Eric Reed grew up playing in his father’s storefront Baptist church and was discovered to be a child prodigy at age two. He was steered away from gospel and church music to classical, but dug jazz so much after hearing Art Tatum and Ramsey Lewis that he devoted himself to a different kind of soul music. He recounts in his bio that “I wasn’t interested in practicing Bach; I was too busy digging Horace Silver!” Fast forward to a call from Wynton Marsalis inviting Reed to tour with his band, a gig that lasted from 1990- 1995 and established the pianist as a first-rate player, bandleader and educator as well an artist with more than 25 solo recordings to his credit.
Reed has a brilliant affinity for the music of Thelonious Monk, recently dedicating two albums to Monk’s timeless compositions on the trio-based Dancing Monk in 2011 and again on The Baddest Monk in 2012, the latter adding a two-horn frontline and vocalist Jose James for a version of “Round Midnight.” For his third go ‘round, The Adventurous Monk, Reed mixes things up with a dynamic band that includes saxophonist Seamus Blake, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. With no time to waste, dazzling versions of “Thelonious,” “Work” and “Reflections” trigger Reed’s fleet set, where he slips into a deep, easy groove punctuated by a swinging rhythmic conversation between Williams and Hutchinson. Seamus Blake, a saxophone powerhouse, authentically recalls the great Charlie Rouse, but delivers freethinking solos with a tone that’s juicy and flush with lyricism. The engineers at Savant have cooked up one of their finest recorded efforts – you sink into the sound, your ears teased with nuance and flavor by Reed and his crew. Endlessly inventive, Reed serves up dollops of church soul and graceful Tatum-like runs that makes these Monk tunes sound both adventurous (“Nutty”), beautiful (“Pannonica”) and more than a little danceable (“Ba-Lues Boliver Ba-Lues-Are”). You can almost imagine the spirit of Monk strutting around Reed’s piano. (10 tracks; 46 minutes)