Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


January/February 2011: David Braid

Geoffrey Keezer: Doctor K

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I was 22 when I first heard pianist Geoffrey Keezer. It was the early 90s and people had been talking about him—he joined Art Blakey at 17, he was a prize pupil of James Williams, he had ridiculous technique. But when I actually walked into Bradley’s in New York’s Greenwich Village and heard Keezer up close, it was a staggering revelation. Here was this kid from Wisconsin, a year younger than me, playing more piano than anyone I had ever heard live, more piano than I’d ever conceived of playing. From that moment, I was a fan of Geoffrey Keezer. Hearing him motivated me tremendously, although begrudgingly, since deep down I knew I could never catch up. I did spend the next few years practicing four to eight hours a day.

Keezer, or “Dr K” as James Williams used to call him, started young, showed great talent, and benefited from the fact that his parents were musicians and music teachers. Still, as we learned in his masterclass at U of M, he also spent a great deal of of his childhood and adolescence practicing, listening to recordings, and transcribing.

He also paid his dues living in New York and touring with most of the greats. From Art Blakey to Art Farmer to Benny Golson, Christian McBride to Chris Botti, Ray Brown to Jim Hall, it’s amazing to think of how that kind of experience has added to his arsenal of  musical information. He has appeared on numerous recordings as a sideman. Some of my favorites are Art Farmer’s Soul Eyes, Joe Locke’s Live In Seattle, and Christian McBride’s Vertical Vision.

But Keezer is a great force as a bandleader and composer as well. His first album is Waiting in the Wings. If you can find it, it’s impressive piano playing for a 17 year old, with shades of McCoy Tyner, Kenny Kirkland, and Mulgrew Miller. I also recommend Curveball, Here and Now, Other Spheres, World Music, and Turn Up the Quiet. His latest on Artistshare is Auréa.

I really enjoy his solo piano CD entitled Zero One—he does a waltz version of Stevie Wonder’s “These Three Words” which is a virtuoso thrill ride. I’m hoping for more solo work from Keezer, since of all the pianists out here, he seems to possess the best tools to pull it off: a ridiculously adept left-hand, total independence between both hands, endless inventiveness, and impeccable rhythm.

Keezer was in Winnipeg recently to perform with vibraphonist Joe Locke and vocalist Kenny Washington. When Locke was sidelined with an emergency appendectomy, Keezer took up the slack and made the weekend quite memorable for Winnipeg jazz folk. I’m getting the sense that many of the pianists in town are feeling exactly as I did when I first heard Keezer almost twenty years ago…


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