Pianist Geoffrey Keezer
kicked off his new CD, "Falling Up" at Jazz at the Bistro in St. Louis, Missouri on November 1, 2003. Flowing easily into the opening song, Keezer was coolly vibrant. Backed by an acoustic bass and drums, this trio played lightly in unison. Weaving a delicate tale, "Beatrice" painted an enchanting evening with a warm glow.
Addressing the intimate crowd, Keezer introduced "Stomping at the Savoy" with a twist. " [It] doesn’t sound anything like "Stomping at the Savoy" that you are imagining. Don’t hold us to it." Keezer nailed the song, while a local television crew and a separate audio crew taped the action. Playing with poetic ease, Keezer’s fingers flew through space and time. Having only played together for just a week, Jon Wikan (drums) and Darryl Hall (bass) were outstandingly steady and strong.
Keezer and friends played a stirring rendition of "Horsewoman" from the "Falling Up" CD. Possessing an organic and earthy feel, the sound of the piano resonated throughout the room. However, this live version cannot be compared to the recording that features Keola Beamer on the acoustic slack key guitar and bamboo nose flute. While the live version was outstanding, the recording is mesmerizing. A meditative atmosphere swirls around this living blend of harmonies and vibes.
Other songs from the "Falling Up" CD would be featured in the set. Each one is an individual offering of creative and original work. However, the second set that followed was where Keezer shined. Playing a little looser, "Bibo No Aozora (Beautiful Sky)" was all about nighttime jazz. Keezer played the piano and keyboard in unison during "Footprints." The result was a style that floated harmoniously with a steady beat. Moving directly into the next song, things slowed with a Hawaiian traditional piece, "Kaulana Na Pua (Famous Are The Flowers)," that was lovingly reflective. Kicking it up with a song by Duke Ellington, "Black and Tan Fantasy," Keezer grooved with flair. The crowd would later reward the trio with generous applause. Quickly taking it down a notch, Keezer offered up a low-key song from Lord of the Rings, "Gollum’s Song," and ended with "Prelude in E Flat" by J.S. Bach.
The mixture of song styles during the sets was remarkable. Although Keezer shies from using the term "eclectic," his sound is truly a blend of many things. Eager to embrace life, Keezer himself is a reflection of all that is music. You can’t label the art or the artist, as the music by Keezer continually evolves.
Writing music for himself at an early age, he was naturally drawn to the freedom of jazz. "I gravitated toward jazz because it really gave me a form. I was already inclined to make up my own music. Jazz gave me a form and structure," stated Keezer. Although he originally trained as a drummer, playing the piano allowed him to accompany his father on the local band circuit. "[I] found that I could work, if I played piano." His mother would serve as his first piano teacher.
On his reflections of choosing jazz as an art form, Keezer shared, "I got into jazz for personal reasons. It made me feel good. It brought me a lot of joy . . . the real tradition of jazz is individuality, having your own voice [and] playing your own way." Keezer also spoke about jazz as a living medium. "Jazz is not a museum piece. It is something that happens in the moment. It is right now . . . as soon as you put jazz under glass, it dies. Jazz has to live. You can not recreate someone else’s solo or recording."
Keezer sees himself as a "conduit" with the audience when he performs. "What happens is when I play, I’m sort of blasting myself wide open to be a channel." Keezer doesn’t feel that playing is "all giving." He believes that the "healing qualities of the music benefit the conduit as well" and that "the music keeps us young."
Keezer refuels himself by getting back into nature "as much as possible." His website reflects those feelings and is a relaxing jaunt in the crazy world of cyberspace. You will catch a brief glimpse of an artist who shares his personal journey through song. "Basically, any experience we have in life comes out in the music." Keezer would later add, "All of humanity on earth is connected. Music is just another way we’re similar. We’re more similar than different."
As Keezer changes, so does his music. Don’t go to a concert and expect to hear a rehash of his latest CD. He doesn’t try to capture the live performances on a recording. "I enjoy the studio as a separate entity," stated Keezer. He likes to use the studio to reveal little nuances that can’t be reproduced live. For instance, Ingrid Jensen (flugelhorn) and Steve Wilson (alto flute) are paired with each other in "Navigating by Starlight" on the "Falling Up" album. This unique song also includes a clip of "Ichikotsu-cho" by the Asian American Jazz Orchestra. All these things would be nearly impossible to combine in the live setting, but make for an exquisite mix of recorded textures.
As this thirty-three-year-old musician continues to mature, it should be interesting to see what the future holds. Perhaps others will follow suit in his bold quest to see beyond the norm and challenge the current limits of the music industry. Cheryl Hughey is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to newsprint, trades and Internet jazz publications. Contact: