Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group: Signing (2012)
Signing is only the second release from the co-led Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group, but both men have traveled plenty of musical miles together, both on record and on stage. They've worked in trio with reed man Tim Garland under the Storms/Nocturnes moniker, produced compelling music for the Japanese marketplace using the New Sound Quartet name and filled venues across the globe to capacity when they take the bandstand together. While six years separate their debutLive In Seattle (Origin, 2006)and this follow-up, they've maintained their musical connection in the interim and their bond has only deepened with time.
The music that Locke and Keezer create can be alternately potent and powerful or peaceful and poetic, but it's never less than enthralling. The program contains four Locke originals, two Keezer-penned pieces and a pair of covers that come from vastly different sourcessaxophonist John Coltrane and the hard-to-define singer/songwriter/musical mutt Imogen Heap. While this group has a signature aural fingerprint that comes through on nearly every track, they don't tread on the same stylistic ground from piece to piece. The title track is a drum 'n' bass-driven journey that has a rave-meets-meets jazz mentality, "Hide And Seek" is a faithful, pop-leaning instrumental facsimile of Heap's work, "Her Sanctuary" is a cascading ride of wonder and ""Darth Alexis" has an occasionally sinister quality and demonstrates the precision of this music. The album contains plenty of first-take recordings, but the performances never betray that fact.
While Locke and Keezer are responsible for shaping the band, the rhythm section deserves credit for bringing a futuristic bent into their sound. Drummer Terreon Gully and bassist Mike Pope push boundaries and bring something distinctly modern to the mix. Pope's electric bass work can serve as a grounding force, melodic instrument, textural element or impressive solo voice ("Terraces"), while Gully is a powerful rhythmic visionary who stokes the flames of this music at every turn ("Signing"). When they mix with Locke and Keezer, the resultant music projects an anything-is-possible policy. This music can be explosive, earthy, driven, touching or terrifying, but, most importantly, it's always unpredictable.
Signing marks Locke's arrival on the Motéma label, where he has two more projects slated for release in the coming year-and-a-half, and it stands as a testament to the ever-growing connection between the vibraphonist and his piano playing partner-in-crime.
Track Listing: Signing; The Lost Lenore; Darth Alexis; Naima; Hide And Seek; Her Sanctuary; Terraces; This Is Just To Say.
Personnel: Joe Locke: vibraphone; Geoffrey Keezer: piano, rhodes, omnisphere; Terreon Gully: drums; Mike Pope: electric bass, acoustic bass.