From the July 2012 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

You might not think there’s room in the universe for another Thelonious Monk tribute. But pianist Eric Reed’s two most recent Savant discs, The Dancing Monk and The Baddest Monk, aren’t retreads in any sense: they’re consistently fresh and insightful, not to mention flat-out swinging. Leading a quintet in a late Saturday set at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (June 2), Reed found uncommon routes through Monk’s already uncommon music. Even the stage setup was odd: piano dead center, with the horns (trumpeter Etienne Charles, tenorist Seamus Blake) at stage right behind Reed’s back. This put the leader in closer quarters with bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Kevin Kanner, and the communication flowed. For the most part, Reed eschewed conventional solo order and split choruses up in different ways: Blake and Charles alternated just the bridges on “Rhythm-a-ning,” stayed mum until the trading with Kanner on “Pannonica” and reveled in continuous trading with the full band on the closing “Epistrophy.” After “Four In One,” featuring a staggeringly inventive Reed solo, Blake and Charles left the bandstand altogether. Reed eased into “’Round Midnight,” modifying the coda into an extended vamp. He segued directly into “Bright Mississippi,” taken at breakneck speed and partially reharmonized. The strategy was simple yet seemingly foolproof: every tune was a study in variation, and every player got right to the point. Surely that’s one mark of a fine bandleader. (David R. Adler)

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Guitarist Julian Lage normally leads a small ensemble with cello and percussion, but the first of his two appearances at the Stone (June 10) featured a pared-down unit with just Jorge Roeder on upright bass and Dan Blake on tenor and soprano saxes. Lage was lightly amplified with a dry and woody timbre — a modest sound that contrasted with the furious pace of his ideas. The set began in a folkish vein with the pastoral “Woodside Waltz” and the brighter “Up From the North,” both of which made clear that Blake and Roeder would be equally spotlighted, and kept on their toes, by the jaw-dropping leader. There were two explicitly jazzy pieces, the dissonant “Raven” and the effortlessly melodic (and provisionally titled) “Fake Standard,” each introduced with snappy rhythm guitar. There were also nods to country and bluegrass with the Merle Travis-inspired “In and Around” and the scorching finale “Greylighting.” Whether caressing a pure and simple line or taking on a treacherous unison passage, Blake and Lage phrased together as one and brought grit and edge to the most tuneful environments. It’s not new to hear chops on the guitar, but articulation as novel and dynamically varied as Lage’s is rare — his improvised counterpoint and cross-register leaps on “233 Butler,” the dark and intricate opener to his latest disc Gladwell, were almost too fast and complex to take in. It seemed well beyond what he could do even a year ago. And yet music, not mere flash, was the result. (DA)