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Chris Keefe: Opening

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Chris Keefe: Opening
Chris Keefe may be new to the jazz recording scene as a leader, but his debut album, aptly titled Opening (Zugzwangbebop Records, 2023), reflects his lifetime commitment to the intricate art of jazz. With an academic background from the New England Conservatory and Manhattan School of Music and performance credits alongside Joe LaBarbera and Antonio Sanchez, Keefe brings a wealth of experience and education to this seven-track offering.

The album begins with Keefe's original composition, "Got a Chick?," a buoyant piece marked by lively rhythms and a relentless sense of playful exploration. Keefe's keyboard articulation suggests the influences of Wynton Kelly and Keith Jarrett, yet his distinct voice shines through. His attention to melody and space immediately establishes that Keefe is not just the bandleader but also the ensemble's creative fulcrum. Drummer Adam Nussbaum and bassist Harvie S bring a nuanced rhythm section sound that is stimulating as they intertwine effortlessly with Keefe's nimble piano playing.

In "Modern," Keefe shows his adeptness as a composer with a melody that has a keen sense of balance and timing. His solo carries this trait as his ideas bloom and climax but are tastefully restrained to allow rhythm and harmony their spotlight. Nussbaum's time feel unmistakably acts as the gravitational pull of the track, which is enhanced by Harvie S as his basslines solidify the harmonic backbone of the composition. This conversational interaction adds a layer of complexity that elevates the whole performance.

Keefe's strategic inclusion of original compositions and jazz standards produces an enjoyable flow between styles and tempos. His rendition of Benny Golson's "Along Came Betty" elegantly bridges the gap between vintage charm and contemporary verve. Conversely, "I Fall in Love Too Easily" offers a window into Keefe's more reflective side, unearthing his nuanced touch and introspective tendencies. The trio's inventive takes on classics like "Just in Time" and Johnny Mercer's "Dream" further demonstrate that even well-explored compositions can be rejuvenated with fresh perspectives.

With Opening, Keefe has made an unignorable statement, enticing listeners to delve deeper into a style that is simultaneously grounded in tradition and teeming with tasteful modern musical sensibilities. For a debut, Opening is mature and nuanced.

Track Listing

Got a Chick; Modern; Along Came Betty; I Fall In Love Too Easily; Just In Time; Chobim; Dream.

Personnel

Harvie S
bass, acoustic

Album information

Title: Opening | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: ZugzWangBeBop Records


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