Roger Kellaway – Live at the Jazz Standard – IPO

by | Nov 6, 2008 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Roger Kellaway – Live at the Jazz Standard – IPO (2 CDs) IPOC1014 *****:

(Roger Kellaway, piano; Russell Malone, guitar; Stefon Harris, vibes; Jay Leonhart, doublebass; Borislav Strulev, cello)

Roger Kellaway has been one of my favorite pianists for a long time. He’s played with a huge variety of jazz, pop and classical artists – including Sonny Rollins, Joni Mitchell, and the LA Philharmonic. He’s done film scores and created the closing theme for All In the Family.  He loves weird time signatures and other exotic techniques.  His 1971 Cello Quartet made a major splash, and in fact one of their albums – a direct-to-disc on the Discwasher label, Nostalgia Suite – is I feel one of the two best jazz direct discs ever made (the other being For Duke on M&K).  He likes a drummer-less combo made up of “instruments of wood,” and explains that the drums fill up the air between the other instruments; “Take them away, clear the air, and you get chamber music.”

Now his chamber music approach features a cello again, plus the terrific talents of guitarist Malone, hot new vibist Stefon Harris, and unusually creative bassist Leonhart.  The 13 tracks were recorded  live at NYC’s Jazz Standard in May of 2006 and feature some tracks with plenty of stretching-out space – running as much as 14 to 16 minutes.  The longest is a generous and swinging treatment of the most upbeat tune on Miles Davis’ watershed album All Blues – “Freddie Freeloader.” There’s a single Kellaway original, “All My Life,” with a masterful solo by Russian cellist Strulev. Also three Ellington tunes and one each by Sonny Rollins and Monk.  The second CD lops off with a completely unexpected jazz vehicle – “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” – a very good example of Kellaway’s  eclectic approach. The woodsy, outdoorsy sound is a delight.  While purists may scoff at no drums or sax in sight, this is my sort of small-group jazz!

TrackList: Cottontail, C Jam Blues, Someday My Prince Will Come, All My Life, I’m Beginning to See the Light, Take Five, The Nearness of You, Doxy, Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Cherry, You Don’t Know What Love Is, Freddie Freeloader, 52nd Street Theme.

 – John Henry

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