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Kate Reid


Jazz pianist and vocalist Kate Reid of Local 47 (Los Angeles) remembers jazz music as an integral part of her daily routine as a teenager in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. “Every morning before high school, my brother would listen to Count Basie and Duke Ellington,” she recalls. “Four years straight, I heard them every morning.”

Reid’s brother, who is two years older than her, studied jazz guitar, and introduced Reid to a lot of big band music, which she immediately loved. She began playing piano, and both siblings subsequently branched out to wind instruments: French horn for Reid, the trumpet for her brother. “It was an automatic transition for me,” she explains. When her brother joined the high school jazz band, Reid naturally wanted to do the same. “I got bitten by the bug,” she says, laughing.

Balancing Act

Far more than typical sibling rivalry, the love of music shared by Reid and her brother continued into their adult lives. Reid received a BM in Jazz Studies from Western Michigan University in 1992, as well as an MM in 1996 and a DMA in 2002 from the University of Miami, both in Jazz Performance. Her brother currently plays guitar for the White House Marine Band. Reid is in her ninth year as a faculty member of Cypress College in California, where she serves as head of the jazz program and teaches Jazz Ensemble and Jazz History. “It’s one of the reasons why gigging, for me, is absolutely necessary,” she says of teaching. “Gigging is an extension of the classroom without fluorescent lighting.”

Reid moved to Los Angeles to take the job at Cypress shortly after receiving her doctoral degree. She strives to show her students the balance between the study of music and its practical application. “There’s a certain element to my own thinking,” she says, “that I was born 40 or 50 years too late. Living and paying one’s bills by performing music would be the cat’s meow.” Realistically, she knows that, more often than not, musicians must supplement any performance income with steady employment. At the moment, she is a prime example.

As a music chair at Cypress, Reid is responsible for hiring the faculty and adjunct faculty. Leave time for performing is a common issue that she must consider, and one to which she can fully relate. “They do need to go on tour, and they need subs,” she explains. Reid understands that many musicians like to expand their audience by performing across the nation or overseas; she took off last spring to go to Europe for a month. “Cypress is set up so that there are ways to take time off like that. It’s unusual, but it’s an important demonstration for the students,” she adds.

The school’s flexibility allows faculty to take opportunities as they arise, as well as maintain previous commitments. For example, Reid spent five summers performing in Japan, beginning in 1998, before she joined the faculty at Cypress, and continuing afterward. “A friend called me because she couldn’t do a gig there, and I took the opportunity without even thinking about it.” Although she played six nights a week in lounges, it still felt like a vacation. “The truth is,” she says, “the standards and the swing are such an international language. There’s such a warm, welcome response to American Jazz.”

Capturing a Certain Sentiment

In the past few years, Reid has shifted her focus. In 2008, while playing with Ron Escheté of Local 47 and his trio, she wanted to get a snapshot of what she was doing. So, she decided it was time to record her first album.

That same year, she released Sentimental Mood, an album of jazz songs from the American songbook. “I didn’t really think so much about it representing me with a specific musical point of view,” Reid admits. “It wasn’t that deep, conceptually.”

That is why, when it came time to record again, Reid had a vision. She had been playing with the same bassist and drummer for more than a year at that point, and felt that, because of the connection they had, there was a lot that could happen musically. “Anybody would love to play with and record with the people they’ve been working with on a regular basis. There’s a sort of magic,” she says. “Things happen that aren’t planned.”

The goal with her second album, The Love I’m In, was to try to keep it sounding as live as possible. “I like it a little bit earthy, a bit more organic. Most of it was recorded off the floor, and we kept some of the flaws in there,” Reid says. “For me, it’s such a communicative ensemble experience, I think it’s important to capture what is happening. Once you start altering the experience—perhaps the intent, the vibe and the feel—they aren’t going to be true.”

The Love I’m In was released in April, and has been getting airplay in several major US cities. Sales are reflecting strong international attention. Reid is quick to attribute this to the authenticity of the recording. “I really do feel that there is more intimacy,” she says, adding, “and more me, more of who I am. In addition to taking a little bit more risk, hopefully, I’m showing the soft underbelly on this album.”

Corners & Crossroads

Through her day job and her artistic pursuits, Reid has fully immersed herself in the world of jazz. Her husband, Steve Reid of Locals 47 and 802 (New York City), is a trumpeter who has played in numerous bands and orchestras of various musical styles. The two have recorded together, and Steve once joined his wife for a summer in Japan. “I think I get just as nervous playing with him as I do anybody else,” she laughs. “Not because he’s harsh or anything, I just think music is so deserving of our best.”

“When we play, there is a level of comfort, and we know each other’s style so well that it’s a lot of fun. We try to play off each other, and when you play six nights in a row, obviously you become even more familiar,” Reid explains. “But the responsibility is to the music. There’s an element of ‘put up or shut up,’ so that it doesn’t really matter who you’re playing with.”

It was Reid’s husband, an AFM member since 1997, who encouraged her to join the union. “I wish that I had joined a lot earlier,” she laments. “I don’t know why I didn’t. Joining the union centralizes your focus and lets you meet the musicians who make up your community. Certainly, it’s a place to learn what’s happening, not just in L.A., but all over. If you’re new to a city, and there’s a lot of opportunity, and you don’t know which way to go, it’s really helpful,” says Reid, speaking from experience. “The support I have gotten from the union has been a great help. I feel connected to it. I just don’t know how big my voice is. I guess that’s the concern for all of us, ‘How big is my voice?’ Can we actually make change, and where is the opportunity to make that change?”

Having lived in numerous cities, Reid appreciates the laid-back lifestyle of many Southern Californians, and considers jazz an appropriate style of music for the locale. “It really does suit the atmosphere,” she says. “Every city has its own flavor, and it’s great to be exposed to them. Miami has more of a Latin flair. When we lived in New York, I didn’t really have the opportunity to gig as much as I would have liked. I was working 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., riding trains everywhere, and trying to get to jam sessions.” The hustle-and-bustle lifestyle of New Yorkers, while not ideal, did develop Reid further as a musician. “It’s helpful, living in cities that are different musically, socially, and economically,” she says.

Reid continues to add to her experiences gigging in different geographic locations, with early 2012 shows in Louisville and at the West Coast Jazz Party in Newport Beach, California. “I feel like I’m at a crossroads at the moment,” she says, “because there are so many opportunities. Airplay for The Love I’m In has brought a lot my way, in terms of gigs.” She’s currently thinking about writing original songs (a topic that has come up often lately), and is considering the possibility of recording a live album. “It’s time to do more writing and showcase that side of me. I’m open to whatever comes, but I do feel that change is in the wind. It’s exciting to see what’s around the corner.” She is also thinking about opening up her sound by recording with a 10-piece band, but is hesitant, saying, “The intimacy changes drastically.”

“I’m trying to figure out what the next step will be, but there’s no guide for that,” Reid says. “When you spend so much time on the gestation period of an album, it’s hard to think of doing another after you’ve just finished one.”


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