Friday, March 13, 2009

Aurea - Geoffrey Keezer - ArtistShare - NEW CD!!! by Chip Boaz

Geoffrey Keezer
ArtistShare by Chip Boaz
Geoffrey Keezer, Essiet Okon Essiet, Hugo Alcázar, Steve Wilson. Ron Blake, Mike Moreno, Jon Wikan, Sofia Rei Kousovitis, Phil 0'Connor, Peter Sprague, Susan Wulff.

Continued creative exploration is an essential piece of any artist’s career, and each new direction requires a deep dedication to study and interpretation of a distinct style. Most musicians will find inspiration in their surroundings, and in many cases, they can quickly make a connection with another artist experienced in their new direction. They inevitably will discover new recordings, decode some playing techniques, and start to build a rudimentary understanding of the style. At this point, artists need to decide just how deeply they will dive into the depth of this new style - will this simply be a surface study that will add a different color to their sound or a concerted effort to perform the music authentically? An experienced musician can generally perform a surface study independently, but the artist looking for a wider knowledge needs to expand his or her horizons. They need to connect with musicians that carry a long history in the music - musicians that can serve as mentors, collaborators, and role models. Performing with these types of musicians will push the artist towards a greater understanding and eventually send them on the path towards authentic performance. Once they travel down this road, the artist needs to find a balance between authenticity and interpretation, a bridge between their previous musical experiences and their new knowledge. This may be the hardest part of the study while the musician attempts to be creative without draining the soul from either tradition - a precarious task for any artist. The results can be interesting, inspiring, and often insightful for all parties. Pianist Geoffrey Keezer branches into new territory with Áurea, an outstanding project that combines Keezer’s rich jazz background with Peruvian and Argentinean music.

Exploring Peruvian Jazz With Keezer’s Original Compositions
Several tracks emphasize the instrumentalists in Keezer’s group as they explore a combination of Afro-Peruvian music and jazz through a series of Keezer’s original compositions. Saxophonist Steve Wilson and Keezer wind a dramatic melody around band hits on “Cayendo Para Arriba” until bassist Essiet Okon Essiet leaps into an angular groove that supports the composition’s urgent tone. Keezer immediately rides off this sensation with a frantic improvisation that inspires enthusiastic response from drummer Hugo Alcázar. After a brief interlude, Wilson slides into his statement slowly, building into an assertive momentum with a biting tone and strong rhythmic ideas. Alcázar and percussionist Jon Wikan establish a thick cajon groove that serves as the foundation for Wilson’s bluesy and distinctly modern melody on “Araña Amarilla.” Keezer relishes in the spacious groove, stretching long lines full of connected themes over the driving cajons. The percussionists disappear momentarily behind Wilson’s improvisation as he carefully explores the new texture, finding his way into rapid and long connected lines that push the band a rhythmic drive. Keezer and Alcázar create a furious momentum through an involved call and response on “Leucadia” until guitarist Peter Sprague joins Keezer on a dramatic melody. Sprague’s acoustic tone gives an understated quality to his improvisation, but he soon pushes the rhythm section into a rumbling frenzy with extended passages full of quick runs. Keezer assertively begins his statement with a bold melody, quickly moving into rhythmically tense figures and fast notes for an exciting solo. Alcázar and Wikan provide a simmering lando groove beneath a staccato unison melody between Keezer and Okon Essiet on “Miraflores.” The solo section contrasts the sharp melody with an open and flowing feel as the group allows the time to be flexible. Keezer takes full advantage of this context, utilizing space and texture to build a thoughtful statement that climaxes into a passionate idea. These tracks display the group’s dual personality with class and style, relying upon Keezer’s deep jazz background and his band’s foundation in Afro-Peruvian styles.

Making A Connection To Folklore Through Strong Vocals
Many pieces employ vocals, bringing the music closer to folklore while never loosing its deep connection to jazz. Alcázar and Keezer form a powerful duo, establishing an elegant classic feel on Mario Amedo Gallo and Antonio Rodriguez Villar’s “La Flor Azul.” Vocalist Sofia Koutsovitis enters with confidence and continues the traditional feel already established, infusing her own personality through thoughtful articulations. A ferocious drum fill leads into an aggressive solo from Keezer, who runs full force until Koutsovitis returns with an impassioned version of the melody. Keezer and guitarist Mike Moreno create a beautifully thin texture on Eduardo Falú and Jaime Dávalos’ “La Nostalgiosa,” providing a foundation for Koutsovitis to engage in a deeply personal reading of the lyrics. The rhythm section joins in layers, building into a galloping rhythmic drive behind Ron Blake’s gentle flute improvisation. Koutsovitis returns over the new feel, and exposes a rich meaning to the lyrics with passion and insight, delivering an album highlight performance. Phil O’Connor’s funky bass clarinet line adds a unique twist to Alcázar and Wikan’s moderate festejo groove on “Una Bruja Buena,” setting the stage for a lush and searching melody from Blake and Koutsovitis. Keezer relies upon strong melodic development to build momentum over the churning groove, taking several opportunities to push his ideas forward with syncopation. Koutsovitis’ dynamic scat work anchors an effective interlude, leading into an engaging solo from Blake, who brings together quick fluid lines and sharp rhythmic attacks. Keezer establishes an introspective mood with a thoughtful unaccompanied solo on Juan Falú’s “Vidala De Lucho,” applying a rich and personal approach to melody and harmony. Koutsovitis builds upon the song’s dramatic setting with a passionate melodic performance that makes full use of her strong and distinct phrasing while Keezer supports her with assertively creative comping. Alcázar and bassist Susan Wulff enter with a jazz ballad foundation, pushing Koutsovitis to another level and providing a setting for Keezer’s deep improvisation. Keezer successfully walks the line between jazz and South American traditions with the inclusion of Koutsovitis, which provides the opportunity to explore authentically Peruvian and Argentinean compositions.

A Deeply Satisfying Creative Exploration
Keezer displays the results of his creative exploration through Peruvian and Argentinean music on Áurea, delivering inspiring Latin Jazz with an even balance of tradition and modern personality. As a pianist, Keezer established himself as a knowledgeable jazz player with a strong command over harmony and style long ago; he brought a defined musical voice into this project. His study of Peruvian and Argentinean styles has deeply enriched his approach without drowning his voice. Keezer attacks the music from an informed and authentic perspective, yet he shines as a smart jazz pianist, providing interesting reharmonizations and thought provoking improvisations. Alcázar serves as the group’s heartbeat, playing with a strength that bridges the two worlds and mirrors Keezer’s defined artistry. His “hybrid drum kit,” a combination of traditional trap drums, cajon, and various percussion sounds, allows him to include sounds from both styles simultaneously - an amazing and virtuosic feat. Koutsovitis appears as a major contributor as well; her vocal interpretations of traditional songs connects the album strongly to both Peru and Argentina. She takes each piece to a new level of artistry with passionate performance that include improvised twists and a clever interplay with Keezer’s rich harmonic settings. There’s an overall sense of unity on the album on many levels - a bond between styles, musicians, and ideals that delivers a deeply satisfying and artistically intriguing experience. Keezer’s creative explorations lead him to a new level of musical expression on Áurea, a new direction for the jazz pianist that hopefully he will continue to follow in the future.

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