Criticize pianist Roger Kellaway
? You must be kidding. Describe Roger Kellaway? That's a fair bet and far more advisable. Kellaway, who is eighty years old as this is being written, embodies the boundless exuberance, creative power and impeccable technique of any player half his age, all of which he displays unfailingly on The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway
, recorded in concert nine years ago at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles and released on Kellaway's eightieth birthday, November 1, 2019.
Escorted into this particular ring by a pair of heavyweights, guitarist Bruce Forman
and bassist Dan Lutz
, Kellaway guides the trio through its paces on five familiar jazz standards and a brace of tunes from the Great American Songbook, Rodgers and Hart's "Have You Met Miss Jones" and Cole Porter's "Night and Day," managing to unearth something fresh and memorable in each one during an invigorating in-the-moment session that lasts slightly more than an hour. The jazz themes include Thelonious Monk
's "52nd Street Theme," Sonny Rollins
' "Doxy," Paul Desmond
's "Take Five," Billy Strayhorn
's "Take the 'A' Train" and Juan Tizol
Perhaps Kellaway's sublime artistry can best be described as post-Oscar Peterson
, as no one since OP's passing has reigned over the piano with quite the same stateliness or authority. No tempo is too daunting, no accentuation too intuitive, no cadence too apposite to outstrip Kellaway's transcendent mastery of the keyboard. In brief, there seems to be nothing, musically speaking, he cannot do while seated at a piano. If there is, it's certainly not evident here. Any questions about dexterity are quickly laid to rest on "52nd Street Theme," as Kellaway and his mates burst from the starting gate at the sort of breakneck speed that suited Peterson best, and the leader's redoubtable solo is reminiscent of the master himself. As if to prove he's no one-trick pony, Kellaway opens "Miss Jones" with a lengthy unaccompanied intro that is a model of sagacity and elegance. Strayhorn's well-traveled "Train" is another standout, as it leaves the station at an unusually slow clip and basically maintains that speed to the end of its colorful journey, giving Lutz an opportunity to display his sharp and resonant bass and Forman his melodic and agile guitar. "Caravan" brings everything full circle, as Kellaway demonstrates once more his Peterson-like sleight of hand.
That's not to imply that anything else on this bright and pleasurable concert date is less than superlative, as that would clearly miss the mark. As trio dates go, Kellaway and his colleagues have set the bar exceedingly high and dared any aspirants to try and measure up to it.
52nd Street Theme; Have You Met Miss Jones; Doxy; Take Five; Take The 'A' Train; Night And Day; Caravan.
Roger Kellaway: piano; Bruce Forman: guitar; Dan Lutz: bass.