Drummer/composer Jake Reed reveals his multi-faceted musical personality on a debut album ranging from post-bop jazz to bluesy rock, 80s pop to vibrant folk
Reed Between the Lines, due out June 19 on Real & Imagined Records, features a wishlist of collaborators from the L.A. studio scene (Andrew Synowiec, David Piltch, Rich Hinman), jazz greats (Larry Goldings, Bruce Forman) and Reed’s bandmates in the acclaimed trioKAIT (Kait Dunton, Cooper Appelt) among others
Like many of his fellow Angelenos, Jake Reed has played many different roles since arriving in L.A. a dozen years ago. In Reed’s case, however, those roles have been performed not on the screen but in the clubs, stages and recording studios where he’s been an in-demand drummer almost since his arrival in the city.
Depending on the day, audiences might think of him as an inventive small-group jazz drummer, as in his work with the convention-defying trioKAIT; as a dynamic rock powerhouse in the John Bonham mold; as the whispering pulse behind folk singer-songwriters or retro-jazz crooners; as a virtuoso swinger anchoring the Bill Holman Big Band; as the subtle percussion evincing the emotional resonance of films like Alexander Payne’s Downsizing or the James Brown biopic Get On Up; or even as a subtle onscreen presence on shows like This Is Us or Glee.
With the release of his multi-faceted debut album, Reed Between the Lines, Jake Reed finally gets to showcase all of his facets on one dazzling project, stunningly diverse but held together by the drummer/composer’s own evocative voice. The album, due out June 19, 2020 via Real & Imagined Music, draws together a dream team of collaborators from Reed’s jazz, rock and session work for a showcase of his wide-ranging influences and imagination.
“As a musician in Los Angeles, I play in so many different situations,” Reed says. “Everyone comes up with their own idea of what kind of musician you are. It’s almost like being typecast as an actor. So I decided to record an album featuring all the different styles that I like to play.”
If a listener were to heed the title’s punning advice, Reed Between the Lines gradually reveals a portrait of Reed from a variety of angles. Here the child of the 80s raised on synth-pop and classic rock, there the well-studied jazz aficionado versed in the modal innovations of Miles and Trane as well as the expansive fusion of Yellowjackets and Weather Report (whose drummer, Peter Erskine, has been a key mentor for Reed); on the one hand a Missouri native nostalgic for his small town roots, on the other a sophisticated Californian renowned for his ability to invigorate any musical situation in which he finds himself.
The album derives much of its lively, inviting feel from the fact that it was recorded almost entirely in the home studio that Reed shares with his wife and collaborator, keyboardist Kait Dunton. Its ten tracks are split like two sides of an LP: the first an ever-shifting array of compositions realized by a rotating cast of characters, the second a thrilling post-bop set by Reed’s trio with rising star bassist Edwin Livingston and the drummer’s mentor, legendary guitarist Bruce Forman.
In keeping with the unconventional nature of the project, Reed Between the Lines begins with a reprise – in this case, his funky original “Welcome Home.” As if segueing from his best-known role to date, the track features Dunton on Rhodes and bassist Cooper Appelt, Reed’s bandmates in trioKAIT, Dunton’s genre-blurring band that has released three acclaimed albums over the past five years. They’re supplemented by the chameleonic session guitarist Andrew Synowiec, whose work has graced projects from The Who’s latest album to the soundtrack of Frozen (yes, that’s his fretwork you’ve had drilled into your brain on “Let It Go”).
Synowiec then channels the blazing power of Jimmy Page to Reed’s Bonham on “AM/FM,” a molten slab of heavy rock that also features bassist Jonathan Flaugher (Sia, Miles Okazaki)and keyboard master Larry Goldings (James Taylor, Pat Metheny) supplying monolithic organ harmonies. The title references comedy icon George Carlin’s album FM & AM, which inspired the bifurcated structure of Reed’s album.
The drummer’s birth year coincided with his hometown Kansas City Royals’ first World Series victory (and last for three decades), and “1985 World Champions” cloaks its anthemic flavor in era-appropriate pop, underlined by a gated reverb drum sound that instantly compels memories of Phil Collins or Dire Straits videos on MTV. Midway through, the song is hijacked by Dunton for a “fusiontastic” Minimoog freak-out hinting at the jazz-rock that existed in parallel with such glossy pop. “Present Tense” brings similar textures into a more modern realm, with minimalist mallet percussion and layered voices inspired by Radiohead and Steve Reich. The absorbing piece features veteran bassist David Piltch (k.d. lang, Blood, Sweat & Tears) and pedal steel guitarist Rich Hinman (St. Vincent, Sara Bareilles).
A more timeless nostalgia lies behind Reed’s moving brass ensemble interpretation of the folk classic “Shenandoah,” arranged by Walt Simonsen in vibrant Copland-esque fashion framed by Reed’s sepia-tinged march rhythm. “I’m from Missouri and Kait’s family is from Virginia near the Shenandoah Valley,” Reed explains. “So when I hear lyrics like, ‘Across the wide Missouri,’ it always reminds me of what the place was like when I lived there. They say you can’t go home again, and when I go back there now it’s like Everywhere, America. For me, ‘Shenandoah’ represents this distant place that doesn’t exist anymore outside of my memory.”
Returning to “Welcome Home,” the album’s second half unleashes Reed’s trio for a blistering jazz set that feels like a late-night jam session, captured live in the drummer’s living room. The tunes include the slinky Elvin Jones homage “Elfin Around” and the combustible “Boobam Boo (Pup Pup),” named for Reed and Dunton’s dog and tipping its hat to the great drummer Roy Haynes and his trademark call-and-response on “Snap Crackle.” Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet is recalled by the atmospheric “Listen Silent,” while album closer “Sneakin’ On Out” is a callback to Reed’s high school drumline days, with a melody intoned on the kit. “There’s two sides to every story,” Reed concludes. Reed Between the Lines reveals far more facets than that, however. With his debut, Jake Reed emerges as a drummer and composer with a prismatic array of voices, styles and talents