Chris Keefe, Opening Review
From Seed to Song: Savoring Chris Keefe’s Opening – A Jazz Feast in Full Bloom
by Stamish Malcuss
Chris Keefe’s Opening results from a lifetime spent perfecting a craft, much like the journey of a humble seed that eventually sprouts into a majestic tree. From Keefe’s formative years absorbing the teachings of jazz luminaries like Kenny Werner, Danilo Perez, Fred Hersch, and Douglas Buys, to his extensive performances across North America, Keefe has cultivated his musical garden with dedication and patience.
Like a gardener patiently tending his seedlings, Keefe’s debut as a leader has been a long time coming, yet it is abundantly clear from the opening strains of “Got A Chick?” that the wait has been worth it. Here, Keefe sets the tone for the album – his piano playing is confident, nuanced, and undeniably evocative. The piece reminds me of the excitement of discovering a new, exotic plant species – there’s an undercurrent of familiar flavors from the great jazz pianists who influenced Keefe, yet the overall aroma is distinctly his own.
One can clearly taste the touches of Wynton Kelly’s blues-influenced rhythm, and Keith Jarrett’s expressive improvisation, but Keefe’s style is more of a carefully curated salad where each ingredient is finely chopped and mixed together. The result is a flavorful blend of influences that doesn’t overpower the unique taste of the main ingredient – Keefe’s distinctive musical voice.
Bassist Harvie S and drummer Adam Nussbaum, both highly respected musicians in their own right, join Keefe to create a harmonious, well-balanced trio. Harvie S’s imaginative bass lines, like the deep roots of a tree, offer a robust and musical foundation for the trio. Nussbaum’s drumming, meanwhile, is akin to the wind rustling through the leaves – he brings a rhythmic dynamism that enhances and complements the overall musical landscape without overshadowing Keefe’s piano.
“Modern,” the second Keefe original, showcases his knack for composition. Like a master gardener who knows precisely when to prune a plant to encourage new growth, Keefe exhibits his knowledge of when to let his melodies bloom and when to trim them back to allow the rhythm and harmony to shine.
In his interpretations of standards like “Along Came Betty” and “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” Keefe demonstrates a deep respect for these classics while infusing them with his distinctive flair. These renditions are like tried and true recipes handed down through generations, to which Keefe adds his own unique seasoning.
To sum up, Chris Keefe’s Opening is like a masterfully tended garden – familiar in its form and structure, but unique and thrilling in its bloom. Each track, like a plant in the garden, stands on its own yet contributes to the overall beauty and unity of the project. As with any garden or meal worth savoring, Opening rewards the listener’s patience with a rich, multi-layered musical feast, brimming with both comfort in its familiarity and excitement in its novelty. So, I recommend settling down with this album like you might with a well-prepared meal, taking the time to savor each musical morsel, and enjoying the journey from seed to full bloom.