This recording has been a long time coming. It’s a story that began in the early 1940s when I was 14. I knew—and sang obsessively, my mother would say—every tune the King Cole Trio recorded. The Trio was unique—groundbreaking—during the era of big bands. Nat was a great jazz pianist and, when he started singing and recording romantic ballads, blues, and jump tunes with the Trio, he became a radio star. I especially loved his ballads. When Nat sang “I’m Lost” I knew exactly what he meant because I felt like the saddest, most lovesick, lost kid on the planet. I felt like I didn’t fit in any place, but I could sing. And in truth, the only way I could talk to girls was to sing Nat’s ballads to them on the phone.
The King Cole Trio performed one day at my school—Jordan High School in Watts (South Los Angeles). Nat was so calm, cool, and sophisticated. I wanted to be just like him. Afterwards, the Trio spent time with those of us who were choir members. I was very excited. But seeing Nat in person, I was filled with such awe that when he spoke to me, I was too shy to even say hello or shake his hand!
Now, here I am some 70 years later, remembering those days and honored to be able to pay tribute to the King Cole Trio and their music. "I’m a Shy Guy" is an irresistible collection of ballads, blues and swing tunes—13 King Cole Trio songs that the group recorded during the 1940s, plus the post-trio Nat King Cole favorite “Unforgettable” from 1951.
DownBeat Editor’s Pick, October 2013
BY FRANK ALKYER
Ed Reed, I’m A Shy Guy (Blue Shorts Records)
The art of the tribute album is tricky at best: Stay too close to the original and you’ll send listeners back to that source material. Muck around too much and, well … you’ll send listeners back to the original. But vocalist Ed Reed knows how to find the sweet spot in a song and how to make it his own, as he proves on his latest recording, I’m A Shy Guy: A Tribute To The King Cole Trio & Their Music. The ever youthful, 84-year-old Reed sings this material as if he’s lived with it his whole life, which he has. These songs roll off his tongue with an understated grace and comfort. Here, we have Reed snuggling up to songs that Nat “King” Cole’s trio made famous in the 1940s. From the downbeat of “I Just Can’t See For Lookin’,” the record’s first tune, there’s no doubt that Reed has gentle yet firm command of this material. His voice is clear. His timing and intonation could be offered as a master class. And the band just slides into the groove of this classic trio with Randy Porter on piano, Jamie Fox on guitar and John Wiitala on bass. Tenor saxophonist Anton Schwartz joins the festivities on tunes like “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby” and “Meet Me At No Special Place.” The latter tune also features drummer Akira Tana, who appears on the title track, too, to give it extra punch. But my favorite moments on the record come when Reed and his voice are the absolute center of attention. You can almost imagine being in a piano bar at closing time when he sings “That’s The Beginning Of The End” with just Porter’s fine accompaniment. The same is true of “I’m Lost,” here done as a vocal and bass duet with Wiitala. And then there’s “This Will Make You Laugh” with Fox’s guitar taking on the heavy challenge of being compared to the fabulous Oscar Moore. He does it just beautifully! By the end of I’m A Shy Guy, I felt that Mr. Reed and his associates had clearly illustrated the endurance of Cole’s trio by simply running down the songs properly, as the “King” intended. Lesson delivered and not soon forgotten.
DownBeat Review, Allen Morrison, December 2013
Ed Reed: I’m a Shy Guy—A Tribute to The King Cole Trio and Their Music (Blue Shorts Records 004; 49:45; 4-stars)
The Bay Area’s Ed Reed, who made his recording debut at 77, seems to be just hitting his stride at 84; his singing has only grown stronger and more confident with age. Reed’s story is the ultimate second act. After decades of drug addiction and repeated incarcerations at San Quentin, he has risen to become a critically acclaimed jazz singer. Reed’s is the voice of experience and hard-won wisdom. On this rounded collection of famous and lesser-known King Cole Trio sides, he takes his time with each lyric, singing dependably behind the beat. Many singers have done Cole tributes recently, but Reed’s is among the best. Without stooping to imitate, he captures the spirit of Cole’s wry humor and charm.
All-About-Jazz, C. Michael Bailey, October 1, 2013
..Since Love Stories, Reed has released The Song Is You (Blue Shorts Records, 2008), Born To Be Blue (Blue Shorts Records, 2011) and the present I'm A Shy Guy: A Tribute to the Cole Trio & Their Music. Reed's performance remains at an amazing, even otherworldly, level. Co-producer and jazz vocalist and educator in her own right, Laurie Antonioli
reveals of the Cole sessions:
"On the first day of most recording projects, it takes time to get people settled, get the sound right and hopefully you'll get a few tunes out of the deal. This is not what happened with the "Nat" session. On day one, from the very first song it was all there. The sound,the band, the tempos and interaction. But most importantly Ed was in fine voice and was a real pro—like Sinatra or something. I think there are at least five first takes from that first day... My involvement, aside from some minor technical things on the vocal end, was simply to say "Let's keep going." The flow was magical and everyone could feel it... The next day the bulk of the recording was finished."
The danger with such sessions is that it all seems too easy and truly exceptional jazz singing, particularly male jazz singing, is anything but. That said, Reed stepped up and made this recording an effortless affair. Supported by a piano-guitar quintet, Reed spins through better and lesser known Cole book inclusions. Bobby Troupe's "Baby Baby All The Time" and Cole's timeless "Unforgettable" join "It's Only A Paper Moon" and "Straighten Up And Fly Right as the better known pieces. "Can't See For Lookin,'" "That's The Beginning of the End" and "Meet Me At No Special Place" represent the pithier and lesser known Cole classics that comprise this excellent collection where Ed Reed sings Cole like Ed Reed and not someone imitating Cole. It is this touch that makes I'm A Shy Guy: A Tribute to the King Cole Trio & Their Music so exceptional.
Andrew Gilbert, "The Golden State of Jazz: The Best California Jazz CDs of 2013", KQED (NPR/PBS), Dec. 9, 2013
East Bay vocalist Ed Reed adds another chapter to his remarkable late-blooming career with this suave and heartfelt tribute to the Nat "King" Cole Trio, his fourth release since turning 78. Covering hits ("It's Only a Paper Moon" and "Straighten Up and Fly Right") and undeserved obscurities ("'Tis Autumn" and the title track), he adds a welcome dose of vulnerability to Cole's impeccably urbane style of crooning. With a taut but relaxed delivery unlike anyone else on the scene, Reed is once again accompanied by a stellar band led by pianist Randy Porter.
Brent Black, Bop_N-Jazz, September 22, 2013
Welcome to I'm A Shy Guy which is one of those rare recording that is made up of numerous "first takes" with the end result a fluidity of sound and swing ... Ed Reed's voice is distinctive with a slightly smokey elegance that embraces a note, a phrase, and the very lyrical essence of storytelling that turns an average singer into a vocal artist ... As wonderful as Reed is we find a band that plays with Ed and not around him creating that classic working band feel for a smooth and effortless transition as they stroll down memory lane. Randy Porter on piano, Anton Schwartz on tenor saxophone, Jamie Fox on guitar, John Wiitala on bass and Akira Tana on drums are all spot on and the synergy here is infectious ... Nat King Cole and the King Cole Trio serve as the musical ground zero for Ed Reed and it shows. This is a magnificent old school turned new cool recording that is a true celebration on a multitude of levels.