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The cultures of several musical idioms collide in the music of pianist Paul Keeling on his album, The Farthest Reach. There is a distinct channeling of the pulsating rhythm of late-1960s bop, the gospel of which was spread by musicians such as Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard. Keeling also channels the glacial imagery of musicians who took inspiration from the European stream that was given life by the impressionism of Maurice Ravel. Thus Bill Evans may be heard in Keeling's piano, as well as Keith Jarrett and Lyle Mays. But Keeling also has a fine sense of himself as a hard-swinging musician who can also magically conjure up images of magical vistas, stir up the emotions of those that inhabit these spaces, and sound meaningful and unforgettable while doing both.
He does this in long, loping lines that traverse the keyboard. Sometimes he might start in the middle and go end to end; at other times he moves in a vertical direction plunging deep into a phrase and turning it inside out. He combines logic with magic, often coming up with almost inexplicable phrases and lines that not only seem plausible, but seem to fit in a sort of mystical way, like fire on a mountain and rumbling deep within the earth. All this comes gloriously together in the music of tracks like "Alpenglow," with its spry, dancing rhythm and ecstatic melody. Then there is "Bitterroot," a work of sweeping grandeur that depicts a region of great wonder and wilderness in the mountains of Montana. And of course "The Farthest Reach" suggests the breathtaking oceanic wonders of the Northwest in all their glory, but also with a certain sense of wistfulness.
Keeling also has interesting renditions of some fairly recognizable music blended in with his compositions. Kenny Dorham's "Escapade" is airily rendered, with sharp twists in the song's head that breaks up the walking rhythm of the choruses. Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" reflects the dazzling beauty of after-hours cruising and chasing a highlife rather than the rather elementally sad and lonely feelings that are often read into the song. Pat Metheny's "Bright Size Life" is energetic and fresh, capturing all the twists and turns of Metheny's original staccato wonder.
It is always refreshing to listen to a musician who has a clearly defined sense of history and works this in to his own sense of where he is at a precise time. The music on this album is a remarkable reflection of a pianist who has large measures of talent and has worked this into his fine awareness of time and space. "The Farthest Reach" is a fine springboard. It will be interesting to see where Keeling will leap next.
Track Listing: Alpenglow; Escapade; Mauna Loa; 'Round Midnight; King of Clubs; Bright Size Life; The Bitterroot; The Farthest Reach; Just a Song Before I Go.
Personnel: Paul Keeling: piano; Morgan Childs: drums; Sean Cronin: bass; Chris Davis: trumpet (3, 5, 7, 8); Steve Kaldestad: tenor saxophone (3, 5, 7, 8)
Year Released: 2010
| Record Label: Self Produced
| Style: Modern Jazz