Calvin Keys - Blue Keys

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2022 CD release.

Since releasing Shaw-Neeq, his seminal 1971 Black Jazz debut album while still a member of Ray Charles' band, guitarist Calvin Keys has recorded only sporadically. In 1975 he issued an extremely worthy Black Jazz follow-up titled Proceed with Caution!, but joined Ahmad Jamal's group and didn't record as a leader until the mid-'80s. He signed with the venerable indie Wide Hive in 2000, issuing the crucial acid jazz classic Detours into Unconscious Rhythms. Blue Keys marks only his fourth outing for the label.

This nine-track set is performed by a star-studded cast that includes Gary Bartz on alto sax, Steve Turre on trombone and shells, Babatunde Lea on percussion, bassists Henry Franklin and Scott Brown, saxophonist Doug Rowan, drummers Thomas McRee and Mike Hughes, pianist/keyboardist Mike Rinta, organist Mike Blankenship, and pianist/producer Gregory Howe.

Set opener "Peregrine's Dive" juxtaposes jaunty post-bop, Latin rhythms, and elegant funk. Introduced by a minor modal piano, a sprightly jazzy guitar run, and Bartz's moaning alto, Turre's trombone enters atop a shuffling, breaking drum kit and double bass. Bartz solos first, weaving sumptuous lines around the band before Turre enters, pushing the crew with a rhythmic approach. Keys adds expansive vamps in direct interplay with trombone and drums. His solo weds complex, rhythmic chord voicings and fluid, edgy single-note runs. The jam ultimately swirls together, moving frenetically yet steadily. It's almost danceable. "CK 22" is introduced by a fingerpopping bass riff before keys and trombone decompress them with open modal circularity; playing both trombone and conch shells, Turre offers harmonic support while Keys delivers a deep blue solo. Speaking of blues, "At Arrival" showcases Keys' canny playing, atop a walking double bass, congas, and drums, while "Making Rain" is a funkier look at jazz-blues à la Phil Upchurch and T-Bone Walker. "Six to Seven" explores dub reggae, post-bop, blues, and funk. Keys' five-note theme is buoyed by brass and reeds atop bumping congas, taut basslines, and percussive syncopation. His guitar winds complex scales yet never abandons the groove. A much edgier blues appears in the title track. Initially, Keys revisits his journey with the Charles band, melding leads, chords, and vamps with a piano accent and swinging Chicago-style horns. Closer "BK 18" is the genuine jazz-funk article. A horn section vamp is urged by the drum kit to set up a frame for Keys, who makes use of Bob Marley's Get Up, Stand Up" in the lyric riff. Rhythmically inventive, Keys solos directly at them before letting the horn section exercise a lyric, harmonic motif that hovers between Fela Kuti and James Brown. The middle-eight breaks the jam open as horns, breaking drums, hypnotic bass, and a meandering keyboard line flow around and through his playing. Following Keys serpentine, cut-to-the-bone solo, the tune concludes with spacy dubwise effects and brassy authority. Though recorded eight years later, Blue Keys picks up where Electric Keys left off yet is more musically advanced and groove-centric. This is powerful stuff.

Thom Jurek ~ AllMusicGuide


SKU 698873036723
Barcode # 698873036723
Brand Wide Hive Records

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