Thursday, February 1, 2007

Joe Locke Geoffrey Keezer Group: Live in Seattle

Origin Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 2.1.07
Buy CD: Live in Seattle

This CD presents the 2005 award-winning concert — and U.S. debut — of the Joe Locke and Geoffrey Keezer quartet. Until recently, this group toured only in Japan, although it made two recordings for the Sony "Eighty-Eight" series label. 

But even a cursory look at the leaders' backgrounds and experience will reveal that we're dealing with a pair of Wunderkinds. 

Locke plays vibes and has long been recognized as the heir apparent to Milt Jackson. By the age of 17, Locke had played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and had moved from the West Coast to New York City. His experience is almost unbelievable for his age: He has produced more than 20 CDs with his own groups, and has been a sideman on 65 others. 

Keezer started to play piano at age 3 and, just out of high school, joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. 

Then Locke and Keezer met. 

They've toured extensively ever since, numerous times in Japan and Russia and — as this review is written — Italy. Many of their CDs were produced in those countries and aren't readily available in the United States. Worse yet, a fast Internet search revealed that many of these foreign disks are priced in the $40-$100 range ... yikes! 

Empty your bank account anyway. 

This quartet must be telepathic. The ensemble work is complex and often played at accelerated tempos, but the interplay between members is unbelievable. Mike Pope (acoustic and electric bass) and Terreon Gully (drums) sound as if they've been with the group since its inception; every note they play adds, never subtracts. 

Additionally, the solo work is backed up by the other instruments without creating a shambles. I've heard only a few groups that can do that successfully; the Modern Jazz Quartet comes to mind. 

Six of the seven tracks are originals, written by either Locke or Keezer; James Taylor's "Native Son" is the only interloper. 

This is true concert jazz. You can't dance to it, nor would you want to. It's modern, not straight-ahead, and at times pushes the envelope ... but the more you hear, the better it sounds. The technical work — recording and mixing — is excellent, particularly since the performance was recorded live. 

This is a remarkable group with superior musicians. Enjoy!

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