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An Array of Horns, Smoothly

Somehow, smiling while keeping his embouchure as he plays sax, Audley Reid is a sight to behold and a feast for the ears. The groove and funk spilling from his horn catches the audience in an acoustic vise.

He’s performed internationally including in his native Jamaica. A strong figure in the Chicago smooth jazz scene, he can easily slide from smooth to Caribbean to R&B or from Christian to straight-ahead. His CD titled “A Plays E” was ranked #3 by Smooth Jazz and More internet radio.

Audley worked in corporate America for over 26 years, with his first 10 years in banking and then the last 16 years in telecommunications. Of the Midwest jazz scene, he says, “We’ve seen more Neo-Soul come on the spot with a funky groove and a vibe. Some musicians are exploring, taking current R&B hits and turning them into a smooth jazz type of flavor because that’s what the audience understands. It helps to grow their fan base.” Straight-ahead is making a nice comeback, he adds.

While clarinet was his first instrument, in high school he began playing alto sax, which is now his primary instrument. Then, he picked up the tenor, lead soprano. “I have over the years started to play a few more instruments like English horn, bassoon and oboe.”

Comparisons have been made to David Sanborn’s sound. Although one of the first songs Audley learned was Sanborn’s “The Dream,” Audley concentrates on perfecting his own sound. “I just try to be me. One of the greatest things that you can do as a musician is to listen to other great performers who play your instrument and learn from them. Maintain your own sound in the music business whether you sing or play an instrument.”

Flexibility! Audley says it’s key to getting gigs and staying sharp, so he plays lots of smooth jazz, straight-ahead and R&B. “The ability to perform an R&B song with a smooth jazz spin has shown to be a winning combination. If you don’t adjust to your core market base you are doomed.”

His core group, a quartet, has been together over ten years. With Audley’s commentary added in, they include:

Will Howard – Bass player, songwriter, arranger, producer. Tremendous amount of skills laying down a solid groove and keeping the pocket.

SelfBlack – Keyboards/Organ. Stellar, Grammy-nominated keyboard player, writer-producer, also a very multi-talented musician playing several different instruments.

Derek Henderson – Drummer. We simply call him the fat timekeeper. Songwriter, producer, engineering and sound work.

“I hope audiences will come back again and again,” he says. “We try to perform music the audience can relate to and every now and then we’ll sneak in a musician’s song. It’s very important that your music connects with your audience and that they have a connection with you and the band.”

With his CD’s “Reid Seeds” and “A Plays E,” the tracks are meaningful and played with heart. His favorite songs include “On The Upside,” “Chill Session” and “So They Say.”

By Debbie Burke

Debbie Burke is the author of The Poconos in B Flat and the upcoming Glissando: A Story of Love, Lust and Jazz (Waldorf Publishing, February 2018). She lives in northeastern Pennsylvania.

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