by Piotr Michalowski
Versatility has been the hallmark of pianist Tad Weed's career. Raised in a family of professional musicians in Jackson, he studied the classics at Central Michigan University and eventually relocated to California. His broad musical training served him well, and he quickly landed jobs with major singers of the time Anita O'Day and Carmen McRae. He also played and recorded with Dick Berk and Charles Lloyd. In 1989 he became the accompanist for Paul Anka, and for the next eleven years he toured the world with the singer. This gig provided security, but at the same time Weed became closely involved with the Los Angeles experimental jazz scene loosely associated with woodwind player Vinny Golia. The pianist recorded two of his own albums for Golia's record label and appeared as a sideman on some more radical dates. His most memorable avant-jazz performance is on Golia's Dante No Longer Repents.
Soon after leaving Anka, Tad Weed came back to Michigan and quickly established himself as one of the top pianists and arrangers in the area, working with the finest jazz musicians in Detroit and offering instruction in his Ypsilanti studio. He continues to work with singers such as Shahida Nurullah, but he has not forgotten his love of more experimental jazz trends, a passion that goes back to his CMU days.
For the last four years he has been leading his Freedom Ensemble at the Firefly Club on the last Tuesday of each month. The quartet includes three of the area's most accomplished musicians: saxophonist Andrew Bishop, bassist Tim Flood, and drummer Pete Siers. All four have a deep knowledge of the whole history of jazz, and this diachronic perspective informs much of the ensemble's music. Dedicated to the future, it is firmly founded in tradition; committed to improvisation, it is devoted to composition. Weed continuously brings in new material, some of it his own, and some composed by neglected masters such as Herbie Nichols. The Nichols
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