Guitarist Calvin Keys has accumulated a five-decade career of playing and recording with some of the biggest names in American music. From Omaha, Nebraska to Kansas City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and other stopping points, Keys made the acquaintance of such luminaries as Frank Edwards, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, King Pleasure, Jack McDuff, Damita Jo, Oscar Brown, Jr., Bill Cosby, Tony Bennett, Joe Henderson, Stanley Turrentine and Donald Byrd.
In 1969, Keys made the move to Los Angeles and recorded his debut as a leader, now long out of print, with drummer Paul Humphrey and organist Billy Osborne. In 1972, Keys recorded Shawn-Neeq for Gene Russell's acclaimed Black Jazz label with Doug and Jean Carn, followed by Proceed With Caution shortly thereafter. An introduction to Ahmad Jamal led to Calvin Keys' membership in Jamal's combo, the first appearance of an electric guitar in the group, for a six-year period which ended in 1980. In 1996, Calvin Keys had quadruple bypass surgery and accomodated his lifestyle to reflect this. He has recorded five albums since the Millennium.
Vertical Clearance offers Keys an opportunity to record with an aggregate seventeen musicians, many of whom are old friends, including organist Doug Carn and Sonny Fortune, one of the three saxophonists. It is essentially a reprise of the soul jazz recordings from the early '70s and his recordings for Black Jazz Records. The music is soulful and funky in the manner of the many recordings that guitarists like Melvin Sparks and Jimmy Ponder recorded during the 1970s and '80s.
The all-original material from this album is reminiscent of the R&B/jazz produced during that era, which remains more complex than today's contemporary jazz (ie. smooth jazz). Sonny Fortune, Paul Hanson and Doug Rowen are heard on saxophones, and vibraphonist Roger Glenn is featured on "Blue D," giving a Cal Tjader feel to the tune.
MRKGY; Spreading Spirit; Unresolved Daydream; Proceed With Caution; Secaucus
S.Rutherford; Vertical Clearance; Seven & Sonny Straight Up; Maximum Height; Blue D; Drunk
Monk; Last Exit.
Calvin Keys: guitar; Ron E. Beck, Darrell Green, Babatunde Lee, Thomas McCree: drums;
Sonny Fortune, Paul Hanson, Doug Rowen: saxophones; Roger Glenn: vibes; Gregory Howe:
Moog; Hednodic: Beat f; Matt Montgomery, Babek Tondre: bass; Mingo, Jr: congas; Mike
Rinta, Phil Ranelin: trombone; Cat Ouano: Rhodes Piano.