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Jazz at the Athenaeum featured a sublime duet of two world class players: vibraphone wizard Joe Locke and North Park pianist Geoffrey Keezer last night, for the third concert in their Summer Series.

Locke may be the finest working vibraphonist in jazz today. He's been on the scene for more than 30 years and in that time he has worked with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to Cecil Taylor and the Beastie Boys and many more. His style has all of the harmonic sophistication of Gary Burton paired with an intense propulsion worthy of Milt Jackson on fast-forward.

Although Keezer makes his home here, he rarely gigs in San Diego, which is a shame, because he's a masterful pianist in command of voluminous classical technique, impeccable rhythm and a strong hint of gospel influence.

Opening with an ecstatic reinvention of "Like Someone In Love," Locked brushed clouds of resonant, harmonized motifs before Keezer joined in with bouncing, strutting chords and furious walking bass. There was a constantly shifting sense of surprise as the two musicians tossed the lead like a baton. Locke's solo was full of astonishment and Keezer's spot found delight in hammered notes that Locke would multiply.

On Locke's "Her Sanctuary," Keezer led off with serene, rolling arpeggios before lighting on a more rhythmically intense section. Locke came out with cascading melodic ideas at a speed that caused his mallets to blur--and Keezer made his improvisations seem integral to the vibraphonist's intentions.

There was a poignant story behind "Verrazano Moon," dedicated to the late saxophonist Bob Berg, that Locke elucidated, but the real emotion was all wrapped into the ballad itself-- a gorgeous tune that balanced a heightened sense of grace with gentle wisps of the blues.

There were moments of extreme, almost Baroque density, as on Keezer's 5 -page "blues" "Daily Avenue," which layered loads of harmonic surprises--and ones of heart-wrenching balladry, as in Locke's dedication to Little Jimmy Scott, "Sword Of Whispers."

The two musicians have been playing together for 20 years, and it showed in the effortless give and take that almost every song exhibited. A lot of times, their contributions took on the nature of one huge instrument.

Particularly joyful was the expansive swing of "Pure Imagination," from the original Willie Wonka movie, wherein Locke's flying mallets and Keezer's vast well of ideas spun orbits around each other. Keezer's solo feature was an exquisite reading of "My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose," that found his hands flowing in a delicate dance with each other.

The concert was performed acoustically, in the resonant grace of the Athenaeum Library's sonically pure space. The standing-room-only crowd got what they came for, and then some.

Photo by Guy Kowarsh

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barnard July 31, 2012 @ 11:40 a.m.

Excellent article about this awesome concert! Bob, did you happen to get the poet's name who wrote the 5 poems, the last of which "Love is a Plancette" was the inspiration for Locke's composition by the same name which he performed. I would love to read all 5 of those metaphorical poems and would appreciate knowing who wrote them. If possible, please send response to: [email protected]


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