Ray Brown Trio with Geoff Keezer | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ray Brown Trio with Geoff Keezer 

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RAY BROWN TRIO WITH GEOFF KEEZER

The bass-playing marvel Ray Brown brought his trio to town just last fall, but I can think of two reasons to recommend him again. First--and despite the word's devaluation in describing two-hit wonders--he's a jazz legend, one of the half-dozen most influential postwar bassists and a founding member of both the Modern Jazz Quartet and the Oscar Peterson Trio, two signal groups of the 1950s. Brown, who turned 70 in October, was one of the first truly modern jazz bassists, and while his successors have built rococo styles upon his own, Brown retains a precision and perceptiveness many could still learn from: you go to hear him again because you can never hear him enough. Second, this time around Brown brings with him Geoff Keezer. Keezer doesn't turn 27 until fall, which makes him perhaps the best mainstream pianist under the age of 30 and one of the best jazz pianists, hands down--or up, or splayed across the keyboard to create his chiseled voicings, or dancing a powerful yet precise swath through a chordal minefield. He has an explosive and precocious command of the piano and particularly of how to structure a solo. He makes the piano seem both bigger and smaller: bigger because of the possibilities he taps, and smaller in that he handles it with such deceptive ease. He draws striking tonalities from the instrument by using the most obvious technique--for instance, pedaling a simple riff into an aural hall of mirrors--at exactly the right moment, and he knows how to add by subtraction, letting a two-note chord etch his accompaniment more sharply than could a more "modern" cluster of three or four. When Keezer last hit town, I urged you to go so you could say you "heard him when." The unfortunate paucity of recent recordings--the last of his domestically distributed albums came out five years ago--means that suggestion still stands. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Uncredited photo of Ray Brown Trio with Geoff Keezer.

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