The Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group, Half Moon Bay, CA, July 8, 2012
Douglas Beach House
Half Moon Bay, California
July 8, 2012
Vibraphonist Joe Locke and keyboardist Geoffrey Keezer have both played the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society at the Douglas Beach House before Sunday July 8th, 2012, but with this appearance of the Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group, the pair brought a fresh power to the venue, the likes of which may not be topped by any gathering of musicians in the near future. Along with Joe Locke on the vibes, Geoffrey Keezer on the Steinway Grand Piano and his Yamaha Motif XS8 synthesizer, the duo brought Mike Pope on his stand-up and his electric basses, while Marvin "Smitty" Smith, probably the most sought after side jazz drummer of our time, sat behind an impressive array of drums. Toward the end of the show, featured vocalist Kenny Washington sang Locke's "Verrazano Moon." The quartet arrived as part of a mini-tour after playing in Reno Nevada the night before. The play list consisted of selections from the group's new album Signing, an interesting collaboration between Locke and Keezer, released by Motéma Music in 2012.
It is not often that a philosophical thread lies behind the making and execution of an album and, if there is, those in the audience often go uninformed. Locke explained, "The music is trying to connect with others. We are trying to reach out, trying to send signs, send messages through our music. We are using our music to connect and communicate with you." Signing is a successful attempt to do just that. A part of that communication came from the intensity of Locke's facial expressions as his mallets flew across the bars and he mouthed each hit as it came down. The man played with passion and meaning while, over on the piano, Keezer's flashing smile sent the message that he enjoyed this music.
From the outset, it was clear that this quartet had done its homework, worked through all of the pieces, and knew when and where to lay it down. The range of tunes scaled from delicate to intense and the group mixed the playlist so well, it was impossible to foretell whether the next piece in the set would become wild and powerful or delicate and smooth.
By the third song in set one, "Her Sanctuary," the quartet had its direction. Keezer led the piece with melodic overtones, staccato hits on the keys that drew from Locke a delicious delicacy that added mid-night dimensions to the piece. In the upper registry, Locke made the vibes nearly talk. Pope was on his electric bass pumping through that background rhythmic structure that could not help but add to the overall sense and feeling of the piece. As the piece launched into a sustained crescendo, Smith came up from the background and knocked out a near perfect solo. "Her Sanctuary" shot from high energy, down into soft vibes and piano. At the end, the tune slipped away off into the ether.
In set two, with "Hide and Seek," the audience spontaneously applauded almost throughout the piece. This was not the typical applause following a solo or featured instrumental within the tune, but instead was simply an acknowledgement of these four masters onstage. The album's title track, in set two, began with an upbeat stride to it, Keezer knocking it out on both the grand piano and synthesizer at the same time, while Locke's mallets flowed over the bars as though the tune was happily running away with everyone. With every note played, these two masters knew how to reach out and make their instruments sing and dance at the same time. Behind it all, "Smitty" weighed in heavily on the drums, keeping with the vibes and backing Keezer's piano while Pope on the bass held down the background rhythm of the number.
For the full two sets that day, the Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group blew the house down, uniting the music with the audience, accomplishing what the album had set out to do. As Locke said early in the concert, "The music is trying to connect ...." The live show did that better than could be expected. With a standing ovation that arose for them hearts of this sophisticated audience, Keezer and Locke returned to the stage as a duo to perform, "Sword of Whispers," not a part of the album but a mellow, very delicate tune that rounded out a historical concert at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, aka the Douglas Beach House.