Eric Reed's technical virtuosity was on full display Friday in the opening set of a two-night run at Catalina's Bar & Grill. The talented young pianist highlighted a mixed collection of standards and originals with a finger-popping array of extended improvisations.
His most effective number was a solo reading of "Embraceable You," which was rich with echoes of Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum. On several other pieces, especially "Stompin' at the Savoy" and "Wade in the Water," Reed's precipitous contrasts of rhythm and dynamics were clearly influenced by Ahmad Jamal.
But there were problems, as well. The sometimes obsessive concentration on rapid-fire right-hand figures tended to give a narrow one-dimensional feel to much of Reed's improvising. Too often, his musical propulsion--energetic though it may have been--was deficient in the essential jazz elements of swing and drive.
Although bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Willie Jones performed in generally stellar fashion (except for Hurst's disturbing intonation during "Yesterdays"), their contribution was more supplemental. Reed's playing clearly needs the support of a well-rehearsed, interactive rhythm section.