John Keyser’s CD Release Party
CD: “Compasino” on the Saphu label
Saturday evening, April 26th, 2008
Maintaining a strong yet understated presence for a very pleasant
musical evening of both originals and standards, jazz guitarist John
Keyser did himself and his music proud at his recent CD release party
The CD, entitled,
“Compasino,” features nine of Keyser’s compositions,
and just one jazz standard, the beautiful, “Autumn
Serenade,” a Peter DeRose composition. The recording was released
on Ed Bennett’s local Saphu label.
There was a nice showing for the
event, a respectful listening audience who showed appropriate
enthusiasm for the highly palatable jazz which Keyser created with
skillful support from highly inventive pianist Tony Pacini, the gentle
yet firmly rooted bass of Ed Bennett, and the effortless-sounding yet
highly intricate rhythms of the masterful Dick Berk on drums.
Wilf’s hosts CD release parties
regularly and it is easy to understand why this venue is the choice of
so many musical artists. The room, with its vibrant red pallet, brick
walls, tasteful lighting, and oversized, modern paintings, exudes posh
intimacy, inviting guests to relax and linger over drinks, fine food,
and music. Some of Portland’s best jazz artists appear at this
venue Wednesday through Saturday. Among these are the Ron Steen Trio,
Tom Grant, the Tony Pacini Trio, and a variety of vocalists. Check the
Wilf’s website for the current schedule.
The music was particularly special
this evening, thanks to Keyser’s fresh and varied approach to his
art form, and superb choice of fellow musicians.
Keyser’s music is intellectually
challenging enough to keep a seasoned jazz listener engaged, yet
accessible enough to hold the attention of the non-jazz aficionado.
This valuable balance serves as an asset to any jazz artist, and John
appears to come by a propensity for this balance naturally. He
has a strong melodic sense and mixes this with just the right amount of
inventiveness to please a wide variety of listeners.
The set list included several
contemplative and refreshingly underexposed ballads, among them
“Autumn Serenade,” “I Fall in Love Too Easily,”
“While We’re Young” and “Too Late Now,”
all of which allowed Keyser to feature his strong sense of melody in
his soloing, and his sweet sound, warm and round. His relaxed and
non-flashy approach to playing is appealing and comforting, and he
creates thoughtful, lovely alternate melodies when he solos which are
well constructed enough to be singable. Keyser and his fellow musicians
put a new spin on another standard, “Besame Mucho” by
playing it in 5/4 time and, amazingly, it actually swung!
Keyser writes much of his material
himself, and displays plenty of variety in his efforts. His original
material, much of which is on his new release, was sprinkled throughout
the program. Each of Keyser’s pieces establishes its own
satisfying groove. For a few of the night’s selections, he
composed a new melody over the changes of rather shopworn standards
such as “All of Me,” “Come Rain or Come Shine”
(untitled original) and “Fly Me To The Moon” (Convivienza,
which is on the CD), breathing freshness into each. The fast tempos of
these selections showcase this guitarist’s ability to play a
single line with squeaky-clean facility. His self-penned melodies
transform these familiar cornerstones into burning bebop tunes,
energizing, and challenging to the ear.
One of the standout originals of the
night was the pensive, poignant Pat Metheny-like “Settling
Down.” It is not on the CD, so be sure to request it next time
you hear Keyser play. Also delightful was, “How to Be A
Friend,” again, slightly reminiscent of Pat Metheny crossed with
Lennon and McCartney, with a funk beat and a subtle country twist.
Another highlight was “The Coaster,” an energizing and
unpredictable blues dedicated to the Oregon Coast, with unexpected
intervals, clean guitar runs, and fast double octave work. “Curb
Feelers” puts forth yet another unpredictable but appealing
melody, and the upbeat, minor swing “Keepin’ Pace”
has a melody which is downright catchy.
This was a musical night to remember, and if you missed it, “Compasino” is available for purchase at www.saphurecords.com.
John Keyser will be appearing at Wilf’s again on Friday, June
13th with the fabulous Tony Pacini Trio. Don’t miss the chance to
hear this wonderful music live!
John will also be performing with John Stowell at Riverplace, June 6th.