Jazz Sensibilities

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Keith Davis, Still

Keith Davis, Still
by Jeff Becker

Keith Davis has performed in the Southeastern region for over 30 years, in various jazz ensembles as a leader and first call sideman. Davis has toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Artie Shaw Orchestra.  Davis has also performed with such great musicians as David “Fathead” Newman, Ben Riley, Mike Mainieri, Pat LaBarbera, and Frank Foster. He has been featured at the Savannah Jazz Festival, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, and more. Keith studies have ranged from formal training with Atlanta jazz instructor, Ted Howe, as well as with classical pianist Steve Hall.  Davis also attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied with renowned saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi.  Davis’ participation in the 1985 Banff Summer Jazz Workshop in Banff, Alberta, Canada included intensive study with such faculty members as Dave Liebman, Dave Holland, John Abercrombie, Don Thompson, and Cecil Taylor. Currently, residing in Greenville, SC, he serves as Adjunct Instructor of Jazz Piano at Furman University.

Still marks the first release by the Keith Davis Trio, which features fellow southeastern musicians Ron Brendle on bass and Justin Watt on drums, this muscular jazz trio showcases and textural journey of introspective complexities and modern jazz harmonies all wrapped up into a nice package of original works by Davis that truly swings and fits nicely into the jazz moniker.  The release is a reflection of his many years of playing and composing, while pointing out a direction for future development.

Highlights include “Lieb” written for saxist Dave Liebman, with whom Davis had the opportunity to study with at the Banff Jazz Workshop in 1985; Davis attributes his inspiration for this cut to his mentor. “New Beginning” is sleek cut that showcases Davis’ agility and finesse, while sporting harmonic interest and complexity.   “Taiji Camp” is a playfully lilting cut that showcases drummer Justin Watt and Ron Brendle’s symbiosis as the rhythm section.  Davis glides atop the pulsing rhythms with no hesitation, his fluidity soars.  “Tadjimon” written for Davis’ oldest son, Tadji is a grooving bluesy cut that is playful and offers the listener a relaxed listen that cooks along.  “Tadji’s Groove” is a barn burner, with fiery playing from all.  Brendle offers a driving bass that is spot on, and his solo is commanding and skilled.  Watts, keeps the groove tight, yet relaxed which keeps the cut on the edge just enough to add vigor to the cut.

Overall, Still is a cornucopia of moods that has one anchoring factor a swinging trio that locks tightly and features great piano chops, the trio listens and interacts well with each other.  A wonderful first outing and one I hope will not be the last from this Southeastern trio. 

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