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Roger Kellaway: Heroes

Jim Santella By

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The Roger Kellaway Trio has no drummer. Rhythm isn't a problem though, since this group swings so well, but harmony is another matter. It's a challenge that pianist Roger Kellaway takes seriously, with considerable success. The Oscar Peterson trios with guitar, Kellaway's first and main influence, have paved the way for him to get excited about the chamber-jazz swing style that he exudes through such favorite chestnuts as "Moten Swing, "Killer Joe, "Night Train, "Cotton Tail and "I Was Doing All Right. The pianist is comfortable in the company of guitarist Bruce Forman and double bassist Dan Lutz as he gathers the momentum to swing lightly across jazz's last half-century.

"Nuages takes us back much further, with deep feelings that fall from Forman's guitar in soft bunches. He and Kellaway share a love for filling empty spots in the song with clusters of sixteenth-notes that they provide in flurries. It allows them to color the pure melodic theme with cascades and showers. Lutz, with a pulsating emphasis that pervades each selection, carries the walking rhythms with class. His feature on Kellaway's "I'm Smiling Again, a strong swinger, serves as a stellar example of the restraint that he employs while merging his instrument's big acoustic voice with those of the others.

Kellaway draws inspiration not only from his mentors, but also from the songs themselves and from his two musical partners. The trio forms a cohesive alliance all session long. At the piano, Kellaway delivers a sparkling performance that drives with clarity. His interpretation of "Midnight Sun washes dreamily as if coming to shore on a remote beach, while several jauntier numbers capture the tradition that he's held onto for all these years. Kellaway, 68, studied piano and double bass at the New England Conservatory and went on to a varied jazz career that has included such diverse aspects as starring in The Chico Hamilton Quartet and serving as Bobby Darin's musical director. His music remains original; yet he's never lost sight of the energy given him by his musical heroes.

Track Listing: Killer Joe;Cotton Tail; I Was Doing All Right; Nuages; Night Train; I'm Smiling Again; Midnight Sun; Moten Swing; 52nd Street Theme; Hymn to Freedom.

Personnel: Roger Kellaway: piano; Bruce Forman: guitar; Dan Lutz: drums.

Title: Heroes | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: IPO Recordings

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