Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jai Reed - Jai Reed

Jai Reed
Jai Reed
TLR Entertainment (2010)

Near the conclusion of his recently-released sophomore project, the New Orleans native and Stellar-nominated Jai Reed sings “Everything Must Change.” It’s a lyrically imaginative evocation of change as the one constant in life, but a constant to inspire optimism and wonderment, not fear or anxiety.

Indeed, Reed's self-titled CD is an evocation of change. The project changes in musical hue as the running time rolls forward. Power P&W shifts to traditional, then to urban contemporary gospel, R&B, and even a gentle touch of jazz.

The constant throughout the album is Reed’s expressive, elastic tenor voice, which also has a palette of hues. For example, Reed powers up on the single, “Praise,” but turns smoky and introspective on “Everything Must Change.” In his vocal runs, one hears shades of Stevie Wonder and Al Green.

Guest vocalists include Bishop Lester Love, who on “Secret Place” is the only one on the project who hits higher notes than Reed. Chicagoan Maurice Griffin, 2007 winner of GMWA’s Gospel Treasure competition and a singer whose voice is really maturing, joins on “How Much You Mean to Me.” Female vocalist Yessa Nessa Williams duets with Reed on “Love Ya” a composition she co-wrote with Jamal Batiste. Williams' voice is another constant on the album, firming up the always-fine background ensemble singing.

While “Praise” and “How Much You Mean to Me” are the album’s singles, the sacred love ballads “Have I Told You,” “Love Ya” and “Secret Place” are more striking tracks simply because they are melodic and, more importantly, allow Reed room to stretch out and improvise on the vocal line. Similarly, Reed gives the gospel hymn, “Farther Along,” a good, old-fashioned flatfooted gospel singer treatment. These kinds of songs are his sweet spot.

Jai Reed is a remarkable singer who is just plain satisfying to listen to.  He makes singing sound effortless, and the more space he has to improvise, the more satisfying it is.

Four of Five Stars

gPod Picks: “Everything Must Change,” “Secret Place,” “Have I Told You.”

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