The timing couldn't be better for pianist Eric Reed.
The spotlight in jazz these days is on youth, and the 24-year-old Reed is getting lots of attention, resulting in opportunities to appear in situations where he can iron out his artistic kinks and grow as a performer.
Monday night at Ambassador Auditorium was one such occasion for Reed, who was giving his first major Los Angeles concert hall performance. Accompanied by superb drummer Greg Hutchison and the fine bassist Ben Wolfe, Reed demonstrated a wide range of skills before a two-thirds full house that was solidly behind him.
The modern mainstream pianist's strong suits are definitely his touch and his use of dynamics. On tunes like "Django" and "Healing Hand," Reed mirrored such notables as Ahmad Jamal and Gene Harris and stroked the keys as tenderly as he'd caress a baby's face, emitting sweet, luminescent notes. On "All the Things You Are" and "Felix the Cat," he varied the volume, going from soft tones to much louder ones, then back again.
But there were also times when Reed made an enemy of loudness, as when he pointlessly hammered the keyboard toward the end of "Poor Butterfly," abandoning a delicious, warm mood.
The pianist possesses considerable technique from years of classical training, and he could be impressive when he displayed his virtuosity. But his moments of dashing around the instrument paled in comparison to those moments when he relaxed and swung with purpose, as he did on "Wade in the Water" and "Broadway."
Reed, who when he isn't leading a trio is a member of Wynton Marsalis' band, doesn't have much of a personal style as yet--he's obviously influenced by Jamal, Harris and McCoy Tyner--but that should come in time.
Hutchison and Wolfe gave Reed ideal support, following his whims, anticipating his shifts in volume and tempo. Wolfe had several strong solos, highlighted by his cleanly picked ideas on "It Don't Mean a Thing," and the drummer revealed his mastery in a number of thrilling, multi-textured solos.