Incomparable is a powerful word. It's often used disingenuously when describing musicians, but in the case of the soon-to-be-released EP from Fervor Records, The Incomparable Francine Reed
, it's spot-on and, to be quite honest, a bit of an understatement.
Longtime local music fans will at least be familiar with Francine Reed’s name. She's been a shining light in the terrific Phoenix jazz and blues scene since the 1970s. She’s also performed with the biggest of the big in those genres, as well as some of the most luminous names in rock 'n' roll and country music.
“I’m 75 now,” she says with such a smile in her voice that it beams through the phone, “and I love saying that. I’m hoping people still see me as the 'Wild Woman' from the song. I’ve sung that song for so many years now and everyone requests that one ['Wild Women (Don’t Get the Blues)']. I was pretty wild back then, I must say, so I don’t mind,” says Reed.
The team at Fervor Records, led by Jeff Freundlich and David Hilker, are releasing The Incomparable Francine Reed
on Friday, February 10, to honor Reed and celebrate Black History Month.
On Sunday, February 5, Reed will perform an afternoon show at The Nash in downtown Phoenix.
This is Fervor’s second go-around with Reed, she's enjoyed working with Freundlich and Hilker.
“[Producer and friend] Andy [Gonzales] is the one who turned me on to [Freundlich] and David [Hilker]. They invited me over to be on Fervor Records, and that is another real honor. They are wonderful,” Reed says.
Reed has seen a few things, sang a lot of songs, and more than anything, seems utterly grateful for the opportunities that have come her way. She speaks glowingly of Lyle Lovett, with whom she has collaborated since 1985. If you've seen the Austin City Limits
episode from August 24, 2022, in which Reed sings with Lovett, you can see how much fun the two have when they collaborate.
“We’ve been around a really long time. We started together in the 1980s. To sing with Lyle all these years, it has given me insight into working with so many other people and being part of so many wonderful songs,” says Reed, who adds that she “absolutely” enjoys working with Lovett.
In addition to working with Lovett, Reed’s discography includes appearances on recordings by Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Delbert McClinton, Jimmy Dawkins, and local favorites Bob Corritore and Hans Olson. This list itself is incomparable for a Phoenix (and for almost two decades, Atlanta-based) artist, but Reed is also the sister of the late Margo Reed, whose vocal chops helped put Phoenix on the jazz map. Brother Michael Reed still plays occasionally, according to Francine, so the beat goes on for the talented Reed family.
“Michael is still perfoming somewhat, but he is doing more of the hiring for the Westside Jazz and Blues Club (on 59th Avenue in Glendale). From time to time, we get together and do something,” says Reed.
Working with pianist Nicole Pesce, drummer Todd Chuba, and bassist Dwight Killian, Reed delivers the goods and then some on The Incomparable Francine Reed
. The five-song EP was produced by Gonzales, who works locally and also shares songwriting credits on the disc. The EP is all killer and no filler and Reed was excited to work on the material, which was also co-written by Colorado-based songwriter Jennifer Bone, who has collaborated with Reed in the past.
“[Bone] and Andy [Gonzales] are a pair of writers and they are just phenomenal. They come up with some incredible songs. They picked the songs, pitched them to me, and I liked them, so I learned them and we got into the studio and we sing. It’s a long process. We have to listen to the song, get the right key. I would pretty much sing anything, though. Someone said to me the other day I could sing the phone book,” says Reed.
“I’m just grateful to be one of the musicians who has made it through and is still standing.”
Francine Reed. 3 p.m. Sunday, February 5. The Nash, 110 East Roosevelt Street. Cost is $37 to $45. Visit the website for details and tickets.