Monday, October 28, 2019

The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway

Roger Kellaway: The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway IPO Records

The celebrated pianist Roger Kellaway has released a trio album with the guitarist Bruce Forman and the bassist Dan Lutz. It is at a live performance recorded at Santa Monica’s The Jazz Bakery back in August of 2010 titled The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway and the music is effervescent, innovative and swinging. Kellaway’s influences have whispers of Errol Garner’s filigreed orchestrations or of George Shearing block chords, but the style is all his own. There is an infectious feeling of joy to Kellaway’s exuberance here and you almost wish you could have been part of the audience on this August evening.

Roger Kellaway is now eighty years old and his curriculum vitae is an enviable one. His work as a pianist and arranger includes important recorded work with Clark Terry, Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Herbie Mann, Wes Montgomery, Oliver Nelson, Eddie Daniels and with Sonny Rollins on the soundtrack for the film Alfie. His work with singers included Mark Murphy, Bobby Darin, Carmen McRae, Dianne Shurr and Liz Minelli to name a few.

Roger Kellaway ( photo credit unknown)
It's always rewarding to revisit the current work of a musician as regarded as Roger Kellaway. On this performance, Kellaway played a selection from some of the classics from the jazz canon.

The music includes Monk’s “52nd Street Theme” done in a rambunctious, gypsy-jazz style mixed with a speed that recall’s the work of Art Tatum.

Richard Rodgers gorgeous “Have You Meet Miss Jones” opens with a slower more elegant, orchestrated introduction that includes some carefully integrated dissonance. Forman’s guitar lines are quick and flow naturally throughout. He often trades lines with Kellaway in a conversational give and take that shows simpatico between these two. Lutz is like a metronomic anchor, always keeping the pace, occasionally adding variation and inspiring syncopation.

Sonny Rollins’s Strutting “Doxy” includes a hint of percussion most probably from one of the string instruments being tapped on in time. Kellaway has an inventive mind that finds paths on which to improvise on the melody adding embellishments, block chording and repeating lines that emphasize the direction and build tension. The group often settles into a swing and then alters the pace dramatically to change it up.

Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” opens with one of Kellaway’s signature repeating theme lines before Lutz plays the melody. The pianist loves to temporarily fixate on a musical idea, a part of the music that he just keeps exploring over and over for inspiration and effect. This song leads itself to some of that repeating form. Forman’s improvisational lines can be more unpredictable and sometimes surprising, and Lutz offers a creative bass solo.

Who doesn’t appreciate the mastery of Billy Strayhorn and here Kellaway takes a leisurely approach to his “Take the ‘A’ Train.” Bassist Lutz is featured on a buoyant bass solo as Forman comps with loping chords that set the pace. Kellaway’s relaxed piano here is sweet, liquid and filled with intention. Forman’s solo captures the classic jazz guitar approach of the masters, harmonizing against the melody with warm, inventive and surprising lines.

Cole Porter “Night and Day” is given a slow sensuous take played with such sleek confidence and verve that you can envision the trio functioning like a suave, Astaire-like dancer gliding over the melody.

The final cut on this album is Juan Tizol’s “Caravan” made famous by the Duke Ellington big band. Kellaway and Lutz percolate, creating a whirling tempestuous backdrop on which Forman plays the exotic melody. Kellaway unlimited innovations include a series of climbing and descending lines that follow the melody. His accents the music with splashes of chordal jabs, rhythmic variations and cascading lines of quickly played notes. The trio works well together like a coordinated three-piece Swiss movement. As confirmed by the audiences spirited applause throughout these guys are a delight to experience.

Listening to The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway will please those of you who just love good jazz played with panache and verve. The album is destined to bring more than a few taps to your feet and a big smile to your face.

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