Geoffrey Keezer "Heart of the Piano"
315 West 44th St
New York, NY, 10036
Doors 5:00 PM / Show 6:00 PM
Geoffrey Keezer "Heart of the Piano"
"Heart of the Piano"
Motema Records Solo Piano CD Release Celebration
Legendary Jazz Pianist’s First Solo Project in 13 Years Pays Homage to Some of His Favorite Artists From Legendary Rock Band Rush, Peter Gabriel and Alanis Morrisette to Jazz Greats Hank Jones, Christian McBride and Donald Brown
"In the universe of piano players that I have been exposed to over the years, Geoffrey has proved himself to be not only a superb technician and improviser, but also above and beyond this, a composer and conceptualist who can maintain the overall line and the DNA of the song in everything he plays. A musician's musician." - Sting
(LOS ANGELES—May 21, 2013) On his first solo project in thirteen years, virtuosic improviser Geoffrey Keezer is on a mission to redefine solo jazz piano as a personal and interactive showcase of melody, energy and groove. Of his many diverse projects, Heart of the Piano is the most direct and focused recording of Keezer’s career. And, after more than 20 years leading his various ensembles and collaborating with artists from Art Blakey to Chris Botti to Sting, Keezer firmly states: “Now it’s time for me to be me!”
Geoffrey titled this album the Heart of the Piano because “this is home base for me—where my heart is, where I find the most freedom.” For Keezer, the biggest challenge going solo was selecting material where he could “generate enough rhythmic interest, enough groove to keep it moving, to keep the ideas flowing.” The end result is an album of ten divergent choices that “are not the most obvious choices for solo piano,” including less familiar pop and jazz covers, a traditional Scottish melody, and two original pieces of spontaneous improvisation in the studio. These selections reflect the influences of early role models, favorite rock bands, and even a chance discovery via music site Shazam. Also informing his approach to solo piano is Keezer’s “singular style of intellectually abstract lyricism woven over exotically complex rhythms and harmonies” (Jazz Police), with “more than enough virtuosity and sheer musical wit and intelligence to weave all of his apparently disparate strands of influence into an original and compelling whole” (Time Magazine), “whose originality and gleaming skills result in music that is fresh and fine beyond genre” (Sunnyside Records).
Heart of the Piano opens with Geoffrey’s tightly textured arrangement of Rush’s “Limelight,” paying homage to both his favorite rock band and the Hank Jones album, Tiptoe Tapdance. Drawing from Scottish folk tradition, he included Eva Cassidy’s version of “My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose,” noting “that song is just so pretty and the way she sang it would just break you down. Interpreting Peter Gabriel’s “Come Talk to Me” for solo piano meant, “having enough happening to keep the groove going. Peter always uses a lot of drums.” With the regal energy of a big band and the frenetic pulse of the Big Apple, Geoffrey takes off on mentor Donald Brown’s “New York,” written for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Geoffrey includes the little known “Still,” the Alanis Morissette song that ran over the closing credits of the 1999 film, Dogma. Covering pop music via solo piano adds special challenges, he notes, “because the lyrics are so important.” Keezer stumbled upon K.T. Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See” via Shazam. “I had never heard of the artist or song. I loved the hook, the middle section, and the happy little melody. I gave it a mixture of Brazilian choro and mid-60s Coltrane quartet.” What do ladybugs listen to as they find sleep? Surely Geoffrey’s slightly countrified, jaggedly swinging arrangement of Christian McBride’s “Lullaby for a Ladybug” should do the trick. “I played this song in Christian’s band for nine years, every night. This is a great tune that should be a standard.” In the studio, Geoffrey created ten spontaneous improvisations, from which two were selected for the album. “Chirizakura” was inspired by Japanese cherry trees, “when pink blossoms fall like snow. It’s so gorgeous.” He chose to close the album with a gently syncopated and spacious blues, “Take Time for Love,” from an early mentor, the late James Williams. Adding to the mix is the extraordinary sound of the recording. “Particularly for a solo piano album,” states Keezer, “it was very important the sound have pristine clarity.” To capture this type of detail and accuracy, Keezer recorded the album with one KMF Audio stereo microphone, which produces an audio signal of unprecedented strength and detail, reproducing a three-dimensional soundstage with exceptional natural “breath” and depth.
For Heart of the Piano Keezer also enlisted the services of another artist, San Diego based Billy Martinez, whose paintings grace the artwork for the album and merchandising materials. Additionally, Martinez recently joined Keezer on stage in concert for a unique live-art improv piece. Due to the incredible response, look for Martinez to join Keezer for further music-art improvisations in concerts to be determined. Keezer will be on tour throughout the summer in conjunction with Heart of the Piano, in addition to performances with Chris Botti worldwide.
Keezer’s only previous solo recording, Zero One, was released in 1999 when the pianist was a mere 29. Yet the Eau Claire, WI native, now 42, was already a veteran performer, having taken over the piano bench for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers after a year at the Berklee College of Music. He felt it was time to reconsider the solo piano format. “I think I am a better pianist in general. I have a lot more technical control over the instrument--more subtleties, better touch and better sound. There’s just more life behind it, informing everything.” That intervening life includes marriage, fatherhood, relocating to Southern California, years as a sideman with Ray Brown, Christian McBride and Chris Botti, and collaborations with Hawaiian slack-key guitarist Keola Beamer, Okinawan vocalist Yasukatsu Oshima, guitar legend Jim Hall, vibes master Joe Locke (Locke/Keezer Group), and Locke and saxophonist Tim Garland (Storms/Nocturnes), among others. Keezer also has garnered two GRAMMY® nominations to date, for Best Latin Jazz Album (Auréa) and Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist ("Don't Explain" by jazz vocalist Denise Donatelli from her album When Lights Are Low, produced by Keezer and nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2010). Geoffrey also produced and arranged Donatelli’s follow-up recording, Soul Shadows, which received a second Best Jazz Vocal Album nomination this year.
In commenting on his mentor, the late James Williams, Keezer states: “He was very close to my heart and incredibly important in my life. I have a career in jazz largely because of him, or at least my career would have looked a lot different than it does.” And a solo piano album by anyone but Geoffrey Keezer would surely look a lot different than does Heart of the Piano!