Blues For An Old New Age

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Blues For An Old New Age
Gary Keller

“One couldn’t ask for a more special group of players to perform the wonderful music of Ron Miller. This is an absolutely beautiful recording.”
Maria Schneider

 

Blues For An Old New Age features the rhythm section of Kenny Werner, piano; Drew Gress, bass; and Billy Hart, drums. Gary is also joined on several selections by trumpeter Scott Wendholt and trombonist John Fedchock. The CD features compositions of Ron Miller, Professor Emeritus of Jazz Composition at the University of Miami, and current underground guru of jazz on the web (ask former students Dan Gottlieb, Gil Goldstein, and Mark Egan).  See the reviews below:

Listen and purchase online from The Music Resource or iTunes

1. Blues For An Old New Age (7:17)
2. Babes of Cancun (5:58)
3. Soul Bod (9:06)
4. Small Feats (7:35)
5. J.C. On the Land (11:03)
6. Monk Strut (8:38)
7. Peacock Park (6:24)
8. Sweet Illusions (8:27)
9. Last Illusions (5:49)

 

All compositions © Ron Miller (RonJam Music/BMI)

Reviews:

“One couldn’t ask for a more special group of players to perform the wonderful music of Ron Miller. This is an absolutely beautiful recording.”
Maria Schneider

Gary is long overdue to be properly recorded and especially doing the tunes of his long time compatriot Ron Miller. These are intricate and well thought out compositions, played impeccably and with inspiration by Gary and the stellar group he assembled. You will enjoy this artistic recording.”
David Liebman

***(*) “Miller’s tunes are an exemplary bunch…. A thinkers delight…extremely well done.”
Penguin Jazz

“Keller’s round, burnished tenor . . . is firmly rooted in jazz tradition with frequent nods and winks to the blues.”
Derek Taylor, Cadence Magazine

“…far from dry academic exercises…credit Keller’s liquid phrasing and lush Ben Webster-like sound, as well as an excellent group that seems to be all of one mind, particularly the rhythm section of Werner, Gress, and the amazingly coloristic drummer Billy Hart.”
Bob Weinberg, City Link Magazine

“An excellent collection of music and a perfect fit for ‘Jazz After Hours.’ I like [Gary's] sound on soprano as well as on tenor and everyone plays great. Very good project – I have nothing but high marks for it.”
Jim Wilke, “Jazz After Hours”

“Very solid album. I audition quite a bit of material as you can imagine, so when I see a quintet/sextet record, I always think ‘what will make this date stand out from the other 5,000 records like this?’ The answer, outside good soloists which you have in spades on this date is ‘good writing.’ Ron Miller has provided you with some fine pieces. I especially like that there is a certain amount of restraint on the date and I mean that in a good sense. No aimless blowing for its own sake–just well conceived tunes and solos that swing and flow together.”
Dan Polletta, WCPN FM Cleveland

“Keller’s tenor and soprano, Wendholt’s trumpet, Fedchock’s trombone, Werner’s piano, Gress’s bass, and Billy Hart’s drums (yes!) are all on target for solving Miller’s musical challenges.”
Owen Cordle, Jazz Times Magazine

Liner Notes

I have known Gary Keller for twenty-five years, first as a student and later as a colleague and friend. He and I have been at the core of a number of outstanding bands that have performed and recorded some great jazz, including many performances of my own music.

Gary is a consummate professional, both as an instrumentalist and teacher. His skills transcend a wide variety of styles, from classical to commercial, but his ability to interpret and improvise jazz is showcased here. As his performance on this CD reveals, he has an uncanny ability to extract improvisational materials that best represent the core of a composition, weaving them into a variety of shapes and melodies based on the communication and feeling of the moment.

Enjoy his performance on this recording – his interpretations of my compositions are “state of the art.” His interplay with the marvelous musicians on this CD demonstrates the ultimate in musical maturity, and the music just plainly swings!

Ron Miller, 1999

Blues For An Old New Age

Also known as Blues For ONA, it was composed with the intention of being realized on synths with the extensive use of “new age” sounding pads. But as this performance clarifies, it is really a hard bop tune with a covert reference to the blues.

Babes Of Cancun Although this tune is not a product of a reharmonization process, it is similar to Small Feats in its harmonic style and its endearing diatonic melody. Meant to portray the light-hearted tone of a “sun and fun” beach holiday, there is a subtle Brazilian influence and shades of Metheny in its melodic construction. This is an advanced composition in the sense that is quite difficult to negotiate the changes while maintaining the forward motion that the melody suggests.

Soul Bod As the title implies, this is a reharmonization of the standard: Body and Soul. There is a subtle influence of Monk and Mingus with the chromaticism of the chord-root bass melody and the general intervalic shape of the top melody. In addition, the low tessitura and slight “blues” quality of the melody add to the effect. Using one of John Coltrane’s compositional techniques, the bridge is left open for improvisation.

Small Feats This tune is the first of a number of compositions using the reharmonization technique of diatonic substitutions at cadences. Like Peacock Park, it was composed to illustrate the technique for the Jazz Composition class at the University of Miami and is loosely based on the Coltrane composition Giant Steps. In addition to this version, this popular tune has also been recorded by Barry Ries (featuring Joe Lovano) and by Hal Galper.

JC On The Land One in a series of tunes written in homage to good friend and saxophonist/educator Jerry Coker, this composition is meant to convey his mellow side and actually refers to the jazz camp setting he had in the mountains of North Carolina, or “the land” as he called it.

Monk Strut The title refers to the quirky phrasing of the harmonic rhythm typical of a Monk composition, and (as those who are lucky enough to have attended a Monk concert may have witnessed) the little dances Thelonius did around the piano during sax solos. The tune has a subtle bop quality with its AABA form and “straight ahead” broken-swing time feel. Its melody can be related to Nefertiti by Wayne Shorter, with its harmony being from the Herbie Hancock “school.”

Peacock Park An exercise in unembarrassed romanticism, Peacock Park is actually the result of devising another example of the use of the diatonic cadence substitution as taught in my Jazz Composition class. The technique was first implemented on the tune Small Feats which is found earlier on this CD. As an example, the usual cadence Amin7 to D13 to Gmaj7 is substituted with a D13sus4 to a Cmin maj7 to a Bmin9. For this particular tune, the original source model is Coltrane’s Central Park West. The melody, like that of Small Feats was composed after the reharmonization process purely by intuition.

Sweet Illusions The second in a suite of compositions with a reference to illusions in the title and programmatic theme. This one means to convey the sweetness and comfort of cloaking one’s self in a romantic illusion. The harmonic rhythm and modal voice-leading make this a rather difficult tune.

Last Illusion Last illusion is the third in the trilogy of compositions having a reference to illusions in the title. The main interest of this tune is the combination of the modern A section with its unusual modality of Ionian #2, b6, and the bop-oriented ii-V swing B section. The bridge also shows a slight influence of the way Thelonius Monk organized key centers.

Gary Keller’s Liner Notes:

For this record project, my first as a leader, I have chosen to feature the music of my close friend and musical colleague of twenty-five years, Ron Miller. It has long been a desire of mine to hear a collection Ron’s compositions recorded by some of today’s preeminent jazz musicians. Likewise, this has been an opportunity to test myself in such a setting, working with original music I know well and for which I have a deep respect.

Ron Miller has devoted his musical career to jazz composition. Whereas most jazz musicians are performers who also compose, Ron (a wonderfully inventive pianist) views himself primarily as a composer. His knowledge and love of all types of music is largely from a composer’s perspective and his compositions reflect his deep understanding of the history and growth of jazz composition.

To call Ron’s music deeply rooted in the past, yet unique and original, is cliche, but true. The influences of Horace Silver, Charles Mingus, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, and Herbie Hancock are strong. Of course the music swings, but it is the lyrical melodies, the wide ranging harmonic textures, and the clearly conceived emotional contours that set Ron’s compositions apart. Perhaps the best term for Ron’s writing is “jazz romanticism,” for his love of romantically oriented classical composers such as Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Respighi, and Prokofiev is also clearly reflected in his music.

Considering the strength of his work, Ron is also relatively unknown. Former students such as Pat Metheny, Dan Gottlieb, Mark Egan, Rick Margitza, and Gil Goldstein are long time supporters, as is Ron’s close friend Jerry Coker. A few musicians from outside the University of Miami alumni community also have recorded several of his tunes, most recently Hal Galper and Barry Ries. For the most part, however, Ron’s library of almost one hundred works is largely undocumented on commercially available recordings. This is, in fact, the first such volume devoted entirely to his compositions. Hopefully this project will bring Ron’s music to broader attention and stimulate more artists to investigate this wonderful repertoire.

A brief background on this recording: Kenny Werner and I have been acquainted since we played together during one of his Miami visits, and I knew his eclectic, adventurous style would work well with this music. Kenny suggested Billy Hart and Drew Gress, as well as Mike Brorby’s studio in Brooklyn. When I decided to add other horns I asked Scott Wendholt, who is gaining recognition as one of New York’s finest jazz trumpeters, and John Fedchock, an old friend from the Woody Herman band who now has a reputation as one of the top trombonists in jazz.

The reputations of these fine musicians are well deserved. In particular, the trio of Kenny, Billy and Drew is something to behold. They demonstrate an extraordinary degree of depth and understanding in capturing the stylistic essence of each tune, coupled with a level of flexibility, creativity and interaction which makes each interpretation sound like the definitive version.

Reviews

“Gary is long overdue to be properly recorded and especially doing the tunes of his long time compatriot Ron Miller. These are intricate and well thought out compositions, played impeccably and with inspiration by Gary and the stellar group he assembled. You will enjoy this artistic recording.”
David Liebman

***(*) “Miller’s tunes are an exemplary bunch…. A thinkers delight…extremely well done.”
Penguin Jazz

“One couldn’t ask for a more special group of players to perform the wonderful music of Ron Miller. This is an absolutely beautiful recording.”
Maria Schneider

“An excellent collection of music and a perfect fit for ‘Jazz After Hours.’ I like [Gary's] sound on soprano as well as on tenor and everyone plays great. Very good project – I have nothing but high marks for it.”
Jim Wilke, “Jazz After Hours”

“Very solid album. I audition quite a bit of material as you can imagine, so when I see a quintet/sextet record, I always think ‘what will make this date stand out from the other 5,000 records like this?’ The answer, outside good soloists which you have in spades on this date is ‘good writing.’ Ron Miller has provided you with some fine pieces. I especially like that there is a certain amount of restraint on the date and I mean that in a good sense. No aimless blowing for its own sake–just well conceived tunes and solos that swing and flow together.”
Dan Polletta, WCPN FM Cleveland

“Keller’s tenor and soprano, Wendholt’s trumpet, Fedchock’s trombone, Werner’s piano, Gress’s bass, and Billy Hart’s drums (yes!) are all on target for solving Miller’s musical challenges.”
Owen Cordle, Jazz Times Magazine

“Keller’s round, burnished tenor . . . is firmly rooted in jazz tradition with frequent nods and winks to the blues.”
Derek Taylor, Cadence Magazine

“…far from dry academic exercises…credit Keller’s liquid phrasing and lush Ben Webster-like sound, as well as an excellent group that seems to be all of one mind, particularly the rhythm section of Werner, Gress, and the amazingly coloristic drummer Billy Hart.”
Bob Weinberg, City Link Magazine