Ken Harrison 3:30 p.m., March 23
Paul Keeling Sells Out 98 Bottles
Chuck Perrin and Dizzy's first production in The Back Room at 98 Bottles, featured former San Diegan and current Vancouver pianist Paul Keeling, performing with local stalwarts Rob Thorsen on bass and Duncan Moore on drums.
Apparently word got out about this event-- it sold out.
The trio opened strong with the out-of-the-box selection of Pat Metheny's "Bright Size Life", a tune that doesn't get covered often, especially by pianists. Keeling's been playing this song forever, and it showed with his effortless navigation of the form and his distillation of solo ideas.
An uptempo swing arrangement of the Jobim ballad, "How Insensitive" was next--propelled by the Herculean bass lines of Thorsen and the relentless ride cymbal pinging and snare drum chatter of Moore.
Keeling took a long, rubato intro before a left hand ostinato revealed a lilting Latin-groove take on "Body & Soul," another tune that illustrated the pianist's original concept on how to treat well-traveled tunes. Keeling brought a sense of joy not often associated with this piece. His inventive solo was filled with rococo ornamentation and long florid lines punctuated with jewel stone harmonies and daring sequences.
An original, "I'm Going With You," came off as a gorgeous ballad in the ECM vein--fueled by Thorsen's moaning whole-notes and the bluesy ornaments of Keeling, who built his solo carefully from churchy harmonies and long strands of unfettered melody. Thorsen followed with an exceptional turn that exploited multiple hammer-ons and piquant forays into the upper register.
Keeling's "Mauna Loa," closed out the first set-- a driving tune in the spirit of McCoy Tyner, with very strong left hand motifs. Moore was especially active on this one, surging forward with waves of clickety-clacking rim-shots and explosive accents, perhaps spurring Keeling into his best solo of the evening--full of dense harmonies and powerful crashing chords.
The pianist opened the second set with another original from his album The Farthest Reach, called "Alpenglow." This was a modern, "straight-eighths" kind of piece, and I think I recognized a harmonic sequence very similar to a section of Pat Metheny's "Phase Dance." Whatever the source, Keeling produced a very strong solo, as did Thorsen. It was Moore, however, who built his essay from virtual silence to an explosive roil that ricocheted like gun fire in in an alley, that took top honors on this one.
A brand new original, "King Of Clubs," followed, this one a hard swinger in the '60s Blue Note style. It reminded me a lot of "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise," for some reason. Thorsen's relentless walking bass made this one sparkle and Keeling responded with long bluesy runs punctuated with strong block chords that were deliciously "old-school."
After a pensive solo reading of his beautiful ballad "Hearth," and a joy-ride romp through a bebop tune I couldn't identify, Keeling's penultimate performance was a gentle reading of the Crosby Stills & Nash piece, "Just A Song Before I Go," another out-of-the-box idea.
That was supposed to be it, but the overflow crowd demanded, and received, one more.
Let's hope Keeling returns home more often and that Dizzy's continues to succeed.
Photos by Bonnie Wright