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ReedBass, Music Spoken Here, The Marr’s Bar, Worcester, 14/12/2023.

by Ian Mann

December 17, 2023


Ian Mann enjoys an exciting live performance in aid of charity from a band led by the Birmingham based musician ReedBass. He also takes a look at Reed's newly released debut album "Still On It".

ReedBass, Music Spoken Here, The Marr’s Bar, Worcester, 14/12/2023.

ReedBass – electric bass, Sam Rogers – tenor sax, Reuben Reynolds – guitar, Faisal Ahmed – keyboards, Leon Small – drums
with guest Danni Meyers – vocals

Music Spoken Here’s final event of 2023 saw the Birmingham based musician ReedBass returning to the Marr’s Bar with his band for a special charity event, with all entrance monies being donated to the Alzheimer’s Society. It represented a particularly significant event for promoter Dave Fuller, whose late father had suffered with Alzheimer’s. Tonight’s show helped to raise awareness of the condition and also raised the commendable sum of £215 for the Society.

ReedBass had previously visited the Marr’s Bar in July when he supported the fusion power trio Law Of Three (guitarist Roy Marchbank, bassist Mark Hartley and drummer Andy Edwards). On that occasion the ReedBass band had been a quartet, with leader Reed joined by saxophonist Sam Rogers, keyboard player Faisal Ahmed and drummer Leon Small. All these returned tonight but this time round the core line up was expanded to a quintet with the addition of guitarist Reuben Reynolds. Reed’s wife, vocalist and songwriter Danni Meyers, also joined the band to sing two numbers, one in each set.

In July ReedBass played a relatively short forty five minute support set, before leaving the stage to the remarkable Law Of Three. My review of the July event, featuring the performances of both bands can be found here;

I enjoyed the ReedBass performance in the summer, but tonight, with the stage to themselves, Reed and the band reached a whole other level as they played two lengthy, value for money sets. Last time the sound mix was geared towards Law Of Three but tonight everything was set up for ReedBass and the sound was excellent throughout, which certainly helped to enhance my enjoyment of the group’s music.

Tonight was also special because it was Reed’s birthday, and also the official launch date of his self released debut album “Still On It”. Many of the pieces that were played at both Worcester shows are included and the album represents an excellent souvenir of ReedBass’ exciting live performances. It’s mainly self recorded with Reed playing all the instruments, but Rogers, Reynolds and Small all appear on the album and there are also contributions from saxophonists Rafael Lopez and Alvin Davis, organist Ashley Allen, pianist David Austin Grey, trombonist David Sear, percussionist Glyn Phillips and lyricist and toaster Kokumo, all leading players on the Birmingham music scene.

Born and raised in Birmingham of Jamaican heritage Reed  is an electric bass specialist, a busy session musician who has worked widely across a broad range of musical genres including jazz, pop, rock, reggae, gospel and musical theatre. He has been a professional musician for more than twenty years and is also an acclaimed music educator.

His group plays in a broadly ‘fusion’ style that includes many elements of Black music, including jazz, funk, soul and gospel, plus more contemporary musical developments such as hip hop, drum & bass and modern day R & B. The “Still On It” album also reveals that Reed is a skilled composer, capable of writing convincingly across a variety of musical styles.

Following the excellent turnout for the previous Music Spoken Here event at the end of November, featuring Paul Booth and Hoop, tonight’s attendance was a little disappointing and the start was delayed in an attempt to accommodate any latecomers. This proved to be a good move as by the time the gig actually got underway the size of the audience had increased considerably, with the crowd quickly getting behind the band.

The music commenced with “Godfather Mike”, the opening track on the new album and a piece dedicated both to James Brown, ‘The Godfather of Soul’, and the late Michael Brecker, the man that Reed describes as the “most badass saxophonist ever”. Driven by Reed’s deep bass grooves, Reynolds’ choppy rhythm guitar and Small’s sturdy drumming the piece saw Ahmed taking the first solo on keyboards, adopting an electric piano sound on his Nord Electro 6. Naturally saxophonist Sam Rogers was also featured prominently, with an earthy, r & b style tenor solo that was pretty ‘badass’ in itself.

A second album track, “It Is Written” was introduced by the melodic sounds of Reed’s five string electric bass, with Reynolds subsequently taking over on guitar. Tonight was my first sighting of Reynolds, another Birmingham based musician, and I was highly impressed by both his technical ability and his fluency as a soloist. It’s a testament to his ability that two of the names I jotted down as potential reference points were those of guitar greats Al DiMeola and Allan Holdsworth. Reynolds’ solo was followed by another blistering sax solo from Rogers that included some powerful r & b style honking. Finally the leader weighed in on funky electric bass, his exuberant solo followed by a series of tenor sax / guitar exchanges. Great stuff,

Reed explained that his family came to Birmingham from Jamaica in the 1950s, making them effectively part of the Windrush Generation. Also taken from the album was “Maroon Warriors”, inspired by the Maroons of Jamaica, slaves who had escaped captivity and who had established communities in the mountains, from where they waged guerilla warfare on the Spanish and British colonial forces. Reed dedicated tonight’s performance of the piece to the memory of the recently deceased Benjamin Zephaniah (1958 – 2023), another Brummie of Jamaican heritage. This was the first item to exhibit a readily discernible reggae influence and included solos from Ahmed on keyboards, deploying both electric piano and synth sounds, and from Rogers on tenor sax. The composer’s bass solo explored some seriously low frequencies, as with just Small for company he ventured into the realms of dub, and even drum and bass.

Reed was initiated into to the sounds of jazz and fusion by his uncles, who introduced him to the music of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and more. Next up was a version of John Coltrane’s ballad “Naima”, in an arrangement that gave the tune a “Reed twist”. An unaccompanied electric bass introduction saw Reed making judicious use of his various effects pedals, with the shimmer of Small’s mallets on cymbals later adding to the atmosphere. Rogers’ tenor sax solo soared above the guitar and synth sound-washes generated by Reynolds and Ahmed, while Reed and Small combined to provide an underpinning groove. The leader then took over on liquidly melodic electric bass, followed by Rogers on guitar. This was an item that was particularly well received by the Worcester audience.

Danni Meyers now joined the band to sing her own song “Monday Blues”, a convincing original bemoaning the grim realities of the working life, a subject that many members of the audience could readily relate to. But there was nothing depressing about the performance, with Meyers’ soulful vocals an excellent addition to the band’s sound.

I thought that the band might take a break there, but a lengthy first set continued with the performance of two more instrumentals. Reed first learned how to play music in church, beginning on piano at six, before moving on to guitar at ten and then to bass, thanks to the influence of those uncles, in his teens. On “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” he encouraged the audience to clap along to some pretty complex rhythms, and the Worcester crowd responded with enthusiasm and no little aplomb. Small started things off at the drums, later joined by Reed’s bass and Ahmed’s synth as the audience continued to clap along. Subsequent instrumental solos came from Reed on bass, Rogers on tenor sax and Ahmed on keyboards. Great fun.

And they still weren’t finished as the ferocious funk grooves of “Jump Up” took things storming out, with Reynolds’ blistering guitar solo followed by Rogers’ sax shredding as Ahmed added organ sounds to his armoury. The impressive Small was rewarded with a dynamic drum feature as an excellent first set ended on an energetic note. I remember “Jump Up” closing the group’s performance in July and being high popular with the crowd. Same again here – but this time it was only half time.

During the break Reed mingled happily with members of the audience and managed to sell a few CDs.

Among Reed’s bass heroes is the late, great Charles Mingus, who was also a celebrated composer and bandleader. The Mingus composition “Slop” was also given  a “Reed twist” in a 21st century makeover that featured solos from electric bass, electric guitar and electric keyboards. This was another piece that I remembered from the group’s previous Marr’s Bar show.

Reed is the son of a pastor and his upbringing inspired his original composition “A PK’s Children”, the initials standing for “Pastor’s Kid”. This piece honours his late father and also celebrates grandfather / child relationships. Tonight’s performance saw Reed leading from the bass and deploying his FX to create a wah wah sound. Meanwhile Ahmed’s keyboard solo featured a range of different sounds, generated via the combination of the Nord Electro 6 keyboard and a Komplete Kontrol MIDI keyboard controller.

Reed dedicated a new composition, “Lady From Camillo”, to the memory of the late, great Chick Corea. Introduced by keyboards, bass and drums this was another piece to feature Ahmed, who shared the soloing with Rogers.

“Ska-tellite Dish”, another album track and also a piece that had been played in July, represented another tip of the hat to Reed’s Jamaican heritage, and also to his own musical journey, with the Two Tone movement from nearby Coventry also getting a mention. Reed dedicated the piece to Jamaican independence and the infectious ska and reggae rhythms helped to ensure that this piece quickly became a crowd favourite, with solos again coming from Ahmed and Rogers.

Danni Meyers joined the band again for a gospel flavoured rendition of the Bill Withers song “Grandma’s Hands”, which also included a blues inflected guitar solo from Reynolds and a bravura electric bass solo from the leader that made effective use of slapping techniques.

It had been intended that the Withers song would be the last piece but the enthusiastic audience reaction ensured that the instrumentalists remained on stage for an energetic romp through the album track “Soundbwoy”. This saw Reed encouraging the audience to say “Goodnight” to each individual musician, all of whom were featured as soloists. It represented a great way to round off an excellent evening of music making that had certainly exceeded my expectations.

There was some terrific playing – and singing – here and Reed also impressed as a writer with a series of compositions that reached beyond the basic ‘fusion’ template to embrace other musical styles and genres, particularly those of Jamaica. In addition to the excellent musicianship there was plenty of energy and good humour and a real air of celebration that reflected the fact that it was the leader’s birthday. Meanwhile Dave Fuller was delighted both by the musical performance and by the sum of money raised for the Alzheimer’s Society.

It’s a shame that there weren’t a few more people there, but those that turned out enjoyed it immensely and the stay-aways missed a real treat. An excellent way to round off the Music Spoken Here programme for 2023.

“Still On It” is highly recommended and is available in a digital format here. I guess CDs are only available at gigs.

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