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"I feel great about the gig...Keezer and I have a great musical chemistry together. He's truly on a level of musicianship that most people only dream of. I love the challenge of walking the tightrope with a musician like him on the stage. It doesn't scare me — it just pushes me to go out there and see what happens," said local jazz vocalist Leonard Patton of his recent Anthology gig with pianist Geoffrey Keezer.

Booked as a CD- release celebration of the pair's brand new disc, Expressions, this gig seemed to exceed everyone's expectations, which were very high to begin with.

The concert began with a sublime reading of Stevie Wonder's "Love's in Need of Love Today," from the epochal album, "Songs in the Key of Life." Buoyed by Keezer's lilting harmonies, Patton extracted every ounce of feeling from the song, no doubt buttressed by his years of gospel music experience. The pianist's solo opened up the form to include two-handed, almost baroque ornaments, offset by bluesy filigree.

Patton's minor key blues original, "Your Love Makes Me Blue," followed, and right away, the level of interaction between the two musicians intensified. Powered by Keezer's rollicking and relentless left-hand basslines, the vocalist's lyrics gave way to an inspired round of scatting worthy of Betty Carter and Bobby McFerrin.

"Everybody Wants To Rule The World" by '80s pop-rockers Tears For Fears was next, and Patton thankfully force-fed some testosterone into his arrangement--his pliant and slightly gritty tenor expanding the depth and meaning of the song to a higher level. On this, and other "straight-eighth" material, Keezer shot strands of lightening-strike flourishes into, and around, the conventional harmony.

Things reached a creative highpoint with the duo's wild and free-wheeling interpretation of Thelonious Monk's, "Think of One." Keezer and Patton stretched the already elliptical melody with contractions, expansions and creative distortions. Keezer seemed to alternate between a wicked barrelhouse and an almost Cecil Taylor-esque series of dissonant clusters. Trust and intuition were the engines powering this astonishing arrangement.

Things wound down in intensity for a picture perfect rendition of the Alec Wilder ballad, "Blackberry Winter," which came as close as these two would to a standard piano plus vocal performance. Patton's fulsome tenor is at it's best when he stretches for notes — something he did admirably with this piece.

It should be noted that the Anthology house appeared to be full for this occasion — not all that common for local performances. Kudos to talent booker Mike Pritchard and owner Howard Berkson for having the vision to pull this off. The sound, as usual, was superb — even sitting at the bar.

There were moments of delicious chaos — as in the delivery of Patton's Ornette Coleman inspired original, "Go Fish," where the degree of spontaneity ratcheted up hard enough to blur the distinctions between consonance and dissonance— there were also moments that revealed the true meaning of soul music, like Patton's sweet Wonder-esque original, "Morning Sun."

They saved the best for last though, a soaring race through the Romberg and Hammerstein standard, "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise," sticking closer to the John Coltrane interpretation than the original Broadway musical version ever intended.

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Photo by Vince Outlaw

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