KSDS Jazz 88 Ocean Beach Music and Arts Festival

KSDS Jazz 88 Ocean Beach Music and Arts Festival
Robert Bush By

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Jazz 88 Ocean Beach Music & Art Festival
Winston's, Hodad's Stage, The Harp
Ocean Beach, CA
September 11, 2010

Perfect day for a party: the sun shone bright in a cloudless sky, it's heat mitigated by a cool ocean breeze. After a one year hiatus due to the terrible economy of 2009, the KSDS Ocean Beach Music and Arts Festival has re-emerged in 2010 with an imperative commitment to a larger, more diverse and ambitious event. This years festival included 7 venues, and 26 acts, a large row of tents with various arts and crafts, and beer gardens from local breweries. The venue furthest from the actual ocean was only two blocks away.

The free-spirited and casual beach community of "OB," (that's what the locals call it), provided a perfect locale for a festive atmosphere. There was, however an acknowledgment of the date's significance—the festival began with a moment of silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. After that, it was full on party mode till the last strands of music wafted into the darkening skies at the edge of night.

KSDS, the area's only full-spectrum jazz radio station, partnered with the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association in assuming the risk of this production. In these days of ever declining ticket sales and dwindling discretionary spending—the risk was palpable. In the end, 3,000 tickets were sold—which was precisely the number hoped for—documenting "That San Diego will support an event like ours... so, look forward to a similar Festival in 2011 and beyond" said KSDS station manager Mark DeBoskey. So kudos to the radio station and their partners for taking the chance to fund such a musically diverse undertaking.

There was something for almost everyone at this year's festival: blues, funk, New- Orleans style, Big Band, and lots of straight up jazz. As in most multi-artist festivals, the pressing issue was making decisions on who to see.

Geoffrey Keezer Trio at Winstons

The OB nightclub Winston's was packed solid for pianist Geoffrey Keezer's set. Keezer, at age 39 is already a veteran musician with tons of top-flight experience. He burst on to the scene in 1989, with the legendary Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers as a teenager. Since then he's worked and recorded with Ray Brown as well as Christian McBride to name just a few. Keezer is an amazing pianist. What sets him apart is his complete mastery of rhythm. All sorts of rhythms. Obviously, working with Blakey and Brown gave him plenty of experience with swing, but that's just the tip of Keezer's iceberg. He's also mastered several forms of South American folkloric rhythms and he loves to "rock out" as well. He is so metrically precise it's as if one was witnessing Max Roach or Elvin Jones soloing on the piano instead of the drums.

Keezer appeared with his working trio: Los Angeles based double-bass virtuoso Hamilton Price and San Diego drum master Duncan Moore who has appeared on hundreds of recordings and played with a virtual "who's who" of local, national and international musicians. The concert started when Keezer closed his eyes and began hammering a minor chord vamp that at times recalled 20th Century piano preludes or middle-eastern "trance music." After several mesmerizing minutes, the first oblique strains of "My Favorite Things" began to assert them selves. By then Price had entered the fray with huge, growling whole notes and deep ostinatos while Moore was laying down some serious ride cymbal statements. Keezer took a long, organic solo that built to a frenzied crescendo—then dropped to a very quiet dynamic to allow Price's solo to be better absorbed. Price has a huge, woody sound and he knows how to use it. His solo, full of slurs and double stops never lost sight of where the "meat" was, in terms of the bottom end. The spirit of John Coltrane had entered the building, and Keezer, who hadn't even planned on playing "My favorite Things" beforehand, wisely recognized what he had set in motion, and followed with a medley of Coltrane's minor blues compositions: "Equinox" and "Mr. P.C."

Keezer set the stage for these interpretations with another long, hypnotic unaccompanied piano intro. This time, he reached inside the lid, muting the strings with one hand while he spun out long strands of rapid, swirling runs—achieving a koto- like effect. Suddenly he was injecting "blue-notes" into the framework and soon after, began the trademark bass riff of "Equinox." Before he played it through even once, Price was with him note for note, and Moore had begun an Elvin-like assault on the skins of his drums. "Equinox" became an intense "swing-fest" with a groove so strong it was impossible to ignore. Like dropping the needle on a "Best Of Coltrane" record the band instantly morphed into the double-timed "Mr. P.C." where the swing intensity ratcheted up to an almost unbearable sense of ecstasy. When the Coltrane medley finally wound down, the audience erupted into a full minute of riotous applause.

The three tunes had taken up almost an hour. Keezer finished his set with the only original of the performance (indeed the only tune planned in advance) another strong waltz, "Point Alexander Moon." It fit rather nicely with the more 'Trane-centric' pieces and finally showcased Keezer the composer. Keezer is a pianist to watch. He is a man of the moment in the highest sense. He comes with a blank slate and creates masterful abstractions that are undeniably grounded "in-the-tradition." He also conveys a sense of joy in his inventions that is so obvious that even the casual listener '"gets it.'" If the festival ended on his last note—it would have been worth the price of admission. Fortunately, the festival was just getting started.


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