The Key Studio Sessions: Chelsea Reed and the Fairweather Five

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If it wasn’t for encouragement from Carsie Blanton – an XPN local fave who relocated to New Orleans a few years back – the breezy jazz of Chelsea Reed and the Fairweather Five might have never seen the light of day. Blanton heard Reed singing and, struck by her smooth and classic style, told her she needed to start performing for swing dancers. Flash forward two years and The Fairweather Five has become one of the more recognizable young players in Philly’s ever-evolving jazz scene. The combo digs into standards and classics from the early 20th century (“Basin Street Blues” dates to 1917) and recasts this century-old music for today’s ears. That doesn’t mean they put some sort of “modern twist” on the music, though. Listening to the band perform, they play it like a jazz band of old would – a vocal theme at the beginning, a string of impressive solos swapped between all the players, and a return to the theme at the end. Reed and her bandmates – trumpet player Noah Hocker, saxophoneist Chris Oatts, guitarist Jake Kelberman on guitar, bassist Joe Plowman and drummer Austin Wagner – are not a pop singer-songwriter outfit with jazz leanings; rather, they’re jazz musicians with a great singer in the mix. Half of the band are full time musicians, or musician-teachers; the rest are finishing up studies at Temple’s Esther Boyer College of Music – though Reed cringes a little at the notion that people will see them, primarily, as “a college band.” But they won’t; you can hear the dedication to their craft and to their band as a unit in the songs performed live for us in this week’s Key Studio Session. Stream and download the set below, and catch the band at any of their numerous local performances in Philly this summer – they play late sets at Chris’ Jazz Cafe on June 14th and July 5th, and will open for Blanton at Ardmore Music Hall on July 19th.

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