Charlie Wilson and King Reeves at the Greenwich Tavern Sunday, December 30

At 8:00 p, Sunday, December 30, The Greenwich Tavern will host an evening of music featuring two acts that are some of the best jazz musicians in the city. The opening act, the very talented jazz  and lovely April Alosio, has been around long enough to have an album out on vinyl (I know, because I own it), and the artists she’s worked with include the phenomenally gifted guitarist Fareed Haque. April has a fine voice that sounds equally at home with both bossa nova and jazz standards, and I look forward to catching up with her.

The headliners for the evening are the duet of King Reeves on vibes and Charlie Wilson on piano. In my mind the two of them together are the best jazz group in the city. In fact, I like King and Charlie even better as a duet than when they form two-fifths of a quintet, as they sometimes do. In the more scaled-down setting their sense of time is more elastic than it could ever be in a larger group setting. Also, you can tell that they push each other. If Reeves is that much more groove-oriented, when the situation warrants Charlie whips out some Filthy McNasty himself—and just about the time you think Charlie Wilson has out-razzledazzled  all competitors by deconstructing and reconstructing a melody in every possible way, Reeves comes back with something even wilder. Really there’s no need for a rhythm section, as these guys are gonna swing no matter what.

Tickets are ten bucks for the show, and food will be provided. I’ve seen King and Charlie play before at the Greenwich, and one of the pleasures of their performances is the rapport they share with an audience that’s followed them for a long time. Today I called King Reeves and asked him a few questions, and among other things I discovered how he crossed paths with (I wasn’t ready for this) Conway Twitty.

What are you playing tomorrow night?

We’re going to play some standards, we’re gonna plays some Monk tunes, we’re gonna play some Wayne Shorter compositions, and we’re gonna play some Charlie Wilson originals.

Describe Charlie Wilson as a pianist.

Let me say this: I’ve been playing music for over 60 years. I’ve played with 15 to 20 pianists, and Charlie is the most accomplished pianist I’ve ever played with. He brings to the table the old and the new plus his own originality.

Why did you choose vibes as your instrument?

I started off on drums and I decided to have melody in my playing, so I switched over to vibes. At the time there was a guy named Conway Twitty, a country musician. He was messing around with them and he sold them pretty cheap.

Conway Twitty as in…the Conway Twitty.

That’s right.

Do you still have those same vibes?

I still have them. I have four or five, but those are my main set.

When did you buy then?

61 or 62.

You must really like those vibes…

I always go back to them because they got the quality to them.

What’s the brand?

Musser. It’s the same set that Lionel Hampton played.

What can you do in a duet setting that you can’t do in a larger group setting?

You can venture off go into different harmonies than if you have a bass player. It gives you a little freedom. It makes you start listening better too.

Finish this thought. Jazz is great when:

When it’s played by guys who don’t have alternatives motives. They’re not trying to be stars; it’s playd by heart. The thing about this music is, it’s become a commodity and it has no value for expression. We play for emotions.

Here’s some footage I shot of King and Charlie during a recent live performance. Yeah, the visual ain’t all that good, and I guess the sound could be better…but on the other hand you can still tell that both of these dudes are complete bad asses.


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