Geoffrey Keezer,
Sublime: Honoring
the Music of Hank Jones

(Telarc, 2003)

The duo-piano album isn't seen in jazz all that much, but here's a CD that attempts to correct that omission and make us sorry for its absence. Geoffrey Keezer, one of the more cerebral of the younger generation of jazz pianists, shares keyboard honors with Kenny Barron, Chick Corea, Benny Green and Mulgrew Miller in a collection of 10 compositions by Hank Jones. With Keezer on the left channel and his guests on the right, it's easy to tell the two apart, but the blend is so consistently involving that you shouldn't be playing the "who's where?" game as you listen.

Jones's compositions are, mercifully, quite varied in tone and mood, so there's not the sameness that you'll find in many single-composer tributes. Keezer begins with a truly "sublime" solo on "Angel Face," setting the stage for the duets to come, the first of which is "Hank's Blues," played with Benny Green, who contributes some masterful stride work right out of the box. It's a subtle blues that almost but never quite stops swinging, with some wonderfully dissonant passages.

Kenny Barron is on hand for "Passing Time," a gorgeous composition, and acquits himself brilliantly, whether comping Keezer or playing lead. There's a marvelous passage in which the players are wickedly frenzied, and it sounds as though the fingers are passing each other on the same piano, but it miraculously resolves into a slow, stately ending. "Time Warp" is a great choice for Chick Corea, with its unpredictable chord changes and varying tempos, and the two make the most of it. Mulgrew Miller and Keezer give "Lullaby" a beautifully soothing reading, and Green is back with "Things Are So Pretty in the Spring," a slow ballad in which the two pianists politely trade off melody and ornamentation.

There's another fine Keezer solo on the title track, after which Barron reappears with a bluesy take on "Favors," and Miller gets a chance to loosen up on the jumpy and jivey "Alpha." Keezer and Corea go out on "Intimidation," an expanded version of which lets Corea go into some freewheeling improvisation.

Sublime is just that, a glorious return to classic twin-piano grandeur, and an involving exploration of the many facets of Hank Jones. Even though this deserves your full concentration, you can put it on at a party for background music, but don't be surprised if the more perceptive listeners start sidling up to the speakers and paying attention.

- Rambles
written by Chet Williamson
published 22 November 2003

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