This isn’t Chris Keller’s first recording, but it is the first on which she leads her own quartet/quintet and the first on which she sings as well as plays piano. With a name like Love Is the Answer, one might reasonably anticipate a session that drips with sugary sentiment, but Keller quickly dispels any such notion with the first measures of her breezy composition, “Stuff Like That,” which sets the tone for a colorful program of straight–ahead Jazz that swings about as hard and as often as needed. There are, it should be noted, some moments of repose along the way, but they are more tasteful than maudlin. Keller dances lightly over the keyboard, alertly striking the proper notes while prudently sidestepping unfamiliar terrain. She sings on half a dozen numbers, in a voice best described as soft and unadorned. Her first vocal, on “The Shadow of Your Smile,” glides into the second, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” which flows in turn into an instrumental version of Jobim’s “Triste.” Keller also sings on “Here’s to Life,” “Nature Boy,” “Four” and the Louis Armstrong hit, “What a Wonderful World” (and am I the only one who considers those lyrics hackneyed?). Among her sidemen, Swan’s full–throated alto voice is most prominent, and he has some engaging things to say, especially on “There Is No Greater Love,” “Stuff Like That,” “A Time for Love,” Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father” and Dizzy’s “Groovin’ High.” The quartet becomes a quintet only on Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” on which Swan and Williams seem to bring out the best in each other before Keller strides in with some incisive observations of her own. Respectable grades all round, but highest for Keller’s piano and Swan’s alto, which lend the session much of its radiance and charm.
Track listing: Stuff Like That; Song for My Father; What Is This Thing Called Love?; A Time for Love; There Is No Greater Love; The Shadow of Your Smile; Smile; Triste; Here’s to Life; Groovin’ High; Four; Nature Boy; What a Wonderful World (66:21).
Chris Keller, piano, vocals; Steve Swan, alto sax; Whit Williams, tenor sax; Donnie West, bass; Ricky Loza, drums, percussion.
Contact: Aurora Jazz, 20 E. Madison, Apt. E, Baltimore, MD 21202 (410