D.C. trumpeter Kenny Reed, who has been blind since birth, doesn't get as much work as he might like. "Somebody will have some real simple music, anybody could learn it in two minutes. Yet people will say, 'I don't want you on this job because you can't read this music.' I have been able to play by ear since I was 5 -- we had a piano at home or there was one at church. I'd hear a tune and be able to pick it out." Reed points out that "you can't look at Braille music when you play it -- you have to remember it -- so it develops both your ear and your memory."
Aware of the work of other blind jazz musicians, including pianists Lennie Tristano and George Shearing and reed player Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Reed graduated in electrical engineering from Catholic University last year He holds down a "day gig" at NASA, where he is presently writing a new frequency analysis program. He'll perform next Saturday night in Charlin Jazz Society's "Trumpets, Trombones and Troubadors" concert at the Commerce Department Auditorium along with trumpeter Benny Bailey, trombonists Al Grey and Calvin Jones, vocalists Nap Turner and Lisa Rich, and others.