Chelsea Reed discovered her passion for jazz through an elementary school homework assignment.
“In fourth grade, I was given an assignment to do a biography project, so I decided to do [the assignment] on Ella Fitzgerald,” Reed, a senior studying jazz vocal performance, said. “I was going through the small, 40-page books to do the assignment and I picked her. Then, I started getting hungry for all the other jazz knowledge I could gain, so I listened to the music. I listened to a Billie Holiday CD I had, and my love for American history and jazz sort of intertwined and developed together.”
Members of Chelsea Reed and the Fair Weather Five are set to celebrate the release of the group’s self-titled debut LP on Oct. 16 with a show at Time Restaurant, Whiskey Bar & Taproom on 13th and Sansom streets.
The singer and her bandmates – Noah Hocker on trumpet, Chris Oatts on saxophone, Jake Kelberman on guitar, Joe Plowman on bass and Austin Wagner on drums – drew heavily on jazz standards as material for the album.
“All but one of the songs [on the album] are actually old jazz standards, so we didn’t write most of the tunes,” Reed said. “We got a list of songs that were in the public domain from Bell Tower Music. They were all written before 1924, so anybody can record them. We just happened to make our own original arrangements of those tunes. It was a pretty collaborative process.”
The singer said while on tour in 2013, the band spent time listening to recordings of the old standards and figuring out ways to add a personal touch to many of its favorites.
The members of the band said they feel a strong connection to the city and the music scene they are a part of.
“I definitely identify a lot with Philadelphia,” Reed said. “This is where I got my start as a musician and it’s my musical home. We all live in Philadelphia and people know us as a band from Philly. We are supported by dancers and other musicians in Philadelphia, so I feel that being a part of Philly’s music scene and just the city itself is a big part of our identity as a band.”
Produced by Bell Tower Music’s Aaron Levinson and Jack Klotz, a media studies and production professor, the album covers jazz standards by the likes of Spencer Williams, Porter Grainger and Everett Robbins.
“Working with Bell Tower Music was awesome because they found us and set up all these shows [for the band],” Reed said. “They recorded our album and have done all the marketing for the album at absolutely no cost to us – and we are not the only band on the label.”
Bell Tower Music has most recently supported fellow Temple students Mo Lowda and the Humble.
Reed said she is grateful for the opportunities the Temple-based record label has given the band.
“[The label] is student-run, but I have to give a big shout out to Aaron Levinson and Jack Klotz,” Reed said. “They are the teachers and main producers at Bell Tower. They have given a lot of advice and free professional help with managing the band.”
Reed and her bandmates hand-picked the lineup for the Oct. 16 show at Time and called upon friends and bands they have previously shared a stage with to help celebrate the album release.
“For the show, we have Ginger Coyle, who is a friend of mine and an amazing singer-songwriter, and Midwestern Exposure,” Reed said. “[Midwestern Exposure] was on the same bill as us for a show at Connie’s Ric-Rac in South Philadelphia. We grabbed that show because we had only been a band for about six weeks. Midwestern Exposure played before us, and I remember thinking ‘Oh, that fits really nicely.’ When I was looking for bands [for the record release show], they agreed to do it.”
Reed, a full-time student, said she must find time every day to balance her commitments to both school and music.
“I feel overworked and overwhelmed all the time,” Reed said. “I love it so much, so I still have the energy to push forward. I’m stressed and burned out a lot, but when I get to perform I am really happy. I get stressed out about little things like dealing with venue managers, printing out charts for the band or making sure everyone is on time.”
Still, Reed stays positive about her busy schedule.
“When you think about it, my job is not hard and really awesome,” Reed said. “I have to keep thinking about that when I am onstage. I make music with my best friends. We hang out everyday, and we are happy people.”
Tim Mulhern can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org