Vernon Alphonsus Reid (born 22 August 1958) is a Caribbean American guitarist, songwriter, composer, and bandleader. Best known as the founder and primary songwriter of the rock band Living Colour, Reid was named No. 66 on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Critic Steve Huey writes, "[Reid's] rampant eclecticism encompasses everything from heavy metal and punk to funk, R&B and avant-garde jazz, and his anarchic, lightning-fast solos have become something of a hallmark as well."
Early life and career
Reid was born in London to Caribbean parents, but grew up in New York City. He attended the prestigious math-science-engineering Brooklyn Technical High School then New York University. He first came to prominence in the 1980s in the band of drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson. 1984's Smash & Scatteration was a duo record with guitarist Bill Frisell. In 1985, Reid co-founded the Black Rock Coalition with journalist Greg Tate and producer Konda Mason.
Reid is best known for leading Living Colour. Early versions of the group formed in New York City in 1983, but the personnel solidified in 1985–86, and Reid led the group for about another decade.
Among the highlights: a double platinum-selling debut album Vivid, released in 1988; its gold-certified successor, Time's Up, released 1990; two consecutive Grammy Awards in the category of Best Hard Rock Performance; opening for the Rolling Stones' 1989 "Steel Wheels" tour; and appearing on the first Lollapalooza tour in the summer of 1991. Living Colour broke up in 1995 but eventually reformed in 2000. Since then, they have released two more albums; Collideøscope in October 2003 on Sanctuary Records and The Chair in the Doorway in September 2009 on Megaforce Records.
During the early years of Living Colour, Vernon used a multi-colored ESP Mirage with EMG pickups. In recent years, Vernon has used custom Hamer guitars, but he also has a relationship with Parker Guitars and has a signature guitar called the DF824VR, which is based on Parker's new Dragonfly model. it has HSS EMG-X pickups, a Floyd Rose vibrato (It is the first Parker guitar to have one) a 5-way mag pickup switching system and a Roland MIDI pickup.
His effects include a Roland VG-99 V Guitar System, Roland GR-20 Guitar Synth, DigiTech XP-300 Space Station, Line 6 FM4 Filter Modeler, and Ernie Ball Volume Pedal. He uses Audix i-5 dynamic microphones to mic his guitar cabinets.
In addition to his work with Living Colour, Reid has been engaged in a number of other projects. He released Mistaken Identity, his first solo album, in 1996 and has collaborated with the choreographers Bill T. Jones on Still/Here and Donald Byrd on Jazztrain. He performed "Party 'Til The End of Time" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with The Roots, an end of the 2000 millennium tribute featuring the music of Prince's album 1999. He also composed and performed "Bring Your Beats" a children's program for BAM.
Reid has also undertaken significant work as a record producer, including two Grammy-nominated albums: Papa (1999) by the African vocalist Salif Keita and Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions (2001) by guitarist James Blood Ulmer. Ulmer's subsequent albums, No Escape from the Blues: The Electric Lady Sessions (2003), Birthright (2005), and Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions (2007), were also produced by Reid.
Reid also appears on Guitar Oblique (Knitting Factory Records) with guitarists David Torn and Elliott Sharp. Reid was also featured in the program presented by BAM and the Experience Music Project in Seattle entitled "Magic Science", which includes Medeski Martin & Wood and the Gil Evans Orchestra performing Gil Evans' arrangements of songs by Jimi Hendrix.
Reid composed the score for the film Paid in Full, directed by Charles Stone III (well known for creating the "Wasssup!" series of commercials for Budweiser as well as directing three videos for Living Colour) and released by Miramax in the fall of 2002. Reid also composed the score for the celebrated documentary "Ghosts of Attica" (directed by Brad Lichtenstein) which aired on Court TV in the fall of 2001 and has been featured at several film festivals. He composed the score for another documentary directed by Lichtenstein, Almost Home, which aired in 2006 on the PBS series Independent Lens.
Reid and DJ Logic, calling themselves "Yohimbe Brothers", released an album in September 2002 entitled Front End Lifter. The Yohimbe Brothers have been touring on and off since the release of the album. Reid was also the music supervisor for the film Mr. 3000, starring Bernie Mac and directed by Charles Stone III; the film was released in September 2004. Vernon's album with Masque (Leon Gruenbaum – keyboards & samchillian tip tip tip cheeepeeeee, Hank Schroy – bass and Marlon Browden – drums), an instrumental album entitled Known Unknown, was released in April 2004, and on 18 April 2006 Vernon Reid and Masque released Other True Self, both on Favored Nations records, owned by another guitarist, Steve Vai.
Reid has a prolific session output in a variety of contexts. He has played live or on record with The Roots, Eye & I, Mick Jagger, Ambitious Lovers, Rollins Band, Spearhead, Public Enemy, Mariah Carey, Tracy Chapman, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Don Byron, Defunkt, Santana, Bernie Worrell, MC 900 Ft. Jesus, B.B. King, Madeleine Peyroux, Meridiem, Jack Bruce, Terry Bozzio, Black Sugar Transmission (Vernon solos on the title track of 2009's USE IT EP) and DJ Spooky among many others.
Reid played at America's Millennium Gala, New Year's Eve 31 December 1999, and 1 January 2000, at the Lincoln Memorial, performing "Fortunate Son" with John Fogerty. Among those in the audience were President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton.
In March 2007, Reid played with Jamaaladeen Tacuma, and G. Calvin Weston at Tonic in NYC, and Tritone in Philadelphia, which led them to record as Free Form Funky Freqs with the recording entitled Urban Mythology Volume 1. European Tour in November and a soon-to-be-released CD.
In July 2008 Vernon Reid assembled a one-off solo band for his appearance at the G-TARanaki Guitar Festival in Taranaki, New Zealand, with keyboard player Jonathan Crayford, bassist Crete Haami and drummer Magesh Magesh. At the Puke Ariki "Midnight Session" concert, Vernon performed an all-star jam with Uli Jon Roth, Gilby Clarke and Alex Skolnick. Reid and the rest of the Living Colour appeared on WM29 to sing CM Punk's theme song.