Reviews: Locke/Keezer, Joel Harrison, Billy Hart, & more


Review of Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group Signing, plus Tiny Reviews of Joel Harrison Search, Billy Hart All Our Reasons, and more.



Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group – Signing

Some musicians are just meant to play together.  Though talented in their own right, some combinations of artists produce music so undeniably magical as to leave no other conclusion than that it should pretty much be illegal for those musicians to record with anyone else.  Following on the huge success of their Storms/Nocturnes trio album VIA (w/Tim Garland, which was the Bird is the Worm 2011 Album of the Year), Joe Locke and Geoffrey Keezer join together again for yet another magical set of music.

Your album personnel:  Joe Locke (vibes), Geoffrey Keezer (piano, rhodes, omnisphere synth), Mike Pope (bass), and Tereon Gully (drums).

The album get things started out at a brisk pace with the title track:  Locke and Keezer turn tight circles around Gully snappy rhythms, while Pope lets his bass drift in and out of the picture, creating hypnotic shadows off the bright notes of Locke’s vibes.  The second track “The Lost Lenore” is a power-down transition from the first track, which leads into the bouncing party atmosphere of “Darth Alexis.”

The quartet’s treatment of “Naima” is a treat.  Contrasting with the yearning warmth of John Coltrane’s ballad, the quartet transforms the tune into a winter landscape, generating warmth of their own by driving the melody at a decent clip faster than Coltrane’s original.  It’s also the start of a three song stretch that illustrates the wondrous creative symbiosis that Locke and Keezer have, and how its able to draw others into its orbit.  “Naima” leads seamlessly into “Hide and Seek,” a ballad that sways peaceably in ways that “Naima” only hinted at, and which, itself, leads into “Her Sanctuary,” a composition full of insane beauty, deep mystery, and shifting tempos that gracefully ties all three compositions together.  “Her Sanctuary” was also a track on the VIA album, and that rendition was a highlight, too.

Album ends with “Terraces” and “This Is Just To Say”… slow-tempo pieces that have their own point of view, but just as importantly, give the album a satisfying finality.  I appreciate an album that finds the right way to say goodbye.  It’s the kind of thing that makes me want to just play the entire album all over again, and it’s the kind of thing that will already have me looking forward to the next album.

Released on the Motema label.

Here’s a link to the Locke – Keezer artist site.

Listen to more of the album on Bandcamp.

Available on eMusic.

Available at:  Amazon | Bandcamp


Joel Harrison – Search

Guitarist Joel Harrison brings an exhilaration to stringed instruments in jazz that’s pretty much unequaled in the present day. There is a soaring lightness to his albums, even when weighted down with emotion. Search, is one of those albums where every composition is its own tiny world in which introductions are made, obstacles encountered, conflicts traversed, denouements achieved, and grand finales fall expertly into place… and then the next track begins.

Your album personnel: Joel Harrison (guitar), Donny McCaslin (tenor sax), Gary Versace (piano, Hammond B-3), Christian Howes (violin), Dana Leong (cello), Stephan Crump (bass), and Clarence Penn (drums).


Some moments of swing, some moments of classical influence, and most importantly, an absolute joy to hear.  This is most certainly an album that will pay dividends with repeated listening over time.  There’s a lot going on here.  Plus, the album can be enjoyed at a surface level by way of it being pretty music, but there’s tremendous depth to this music as well, which means it’ll keep the brain entertained as the day is long.

Released on the Sunnyside Records label.

Listen to more of the album on the label’s Bandcamp page.

Jazz from NYC.

Available on eMusic | Bandcamp


Billy Hart – All Our Reasons

Drummer Billy Hart has been a part of some of the more inventive jazz projects of our time.  This particular quartet has been around for years, but this is their first recording as a group for the ECM label.  Thankfully, none of Hart’s fire is extinguished by the label aesthetic; plenty of life here.  Hart is just as likely to slide the rhythm on ice as tattoo it on the listener’s ear, and this recording allows him to show the breadth of that talent.  Mark Turner on sax continues to amaze, best heard on the tune “Nigeria,” which has a languid appeal to it.  “Song for Balkis” is the kind of intoxicating album opener that is so undeniably ECM.

Your album personnel:  Billy Hart (drums), Mark Turner (tenor sax), Ethan Iverson (piano), and Ben Street (bass).

Released on the ECM Records label.

I couldn’t find any audio to embed, but one album track is available to stream on the ECM site HERE.

Available on eMusic.


Other Albums of Interest:


Abbey Rader – Live at PAX

Free Jazz veteran drummer Abbey Rader returns to the scene with a live recording of the fiery improv that one would come to expect.  Rader has performed with a veritable wing in the Jazz Hall of Fame, including John Handy, Mal Waldron, and Dave Liebman.  Joined on this date with piano, sax, horns, bass, and percussion, it’s nice live set of classic free jazz.

You can download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist.

Available at eMusic.


Matthieu Marthouret Organ Quartet – Upbeats

A fun recording, featuring a quartet of organ, guitar, drums, and bass.  Plenty of groove, some swing, a ballad or two, and some straight-ahead tunes that veer off into nifty directions.  An album easy to bounce along to.  This album is a very neat surprise.

Available on eMusic.


FineFones Saxophone Quartet – Funk-A-Lot

A sax quartet led by soprano man and composer Peter Lehel, who also collaborates with the wonderful Barbara Dennerlein. Despite the album title, there is way more concentration on the melody than the groove on this recording. More likely to make the heart soar than the head bop.

Available on eMusic.


Bill Harris Quintet – Inside Out

A straight-ahead blowing session of sax, horns, drums, bass, and piano.  You got your swing and you got your bop and you get it from veteran musicians.  Spiffy stuff and easy to like.

Available at eMusic.



The Locke-Keezer and Joel Harrison reviews are original to Bird is the Worm.  However, portions of the other reviews were originally used in my Jazz Picks weekly article for eMusic, so here’s some language protecting their rights as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

“New Arrivals Jazz Picks“ and “New Arrivals Jazz Picks”, reprints courtesy of, Inc.
© 2012, Inc.

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.  Cheers.