Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers Alumni: Geoffrey Keezer

Written By Sonny Akbar Sembada

Hi, my name is Sonny Akbar Sembada and I welcome you to my blog, The Uncle Jazz. The main topic of my blog is everything related to jazz music.. 

Alright, listen up art blakey and the jazz messengers alumni – Geoffrey Keezer, born on November 20, 1970, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, was practically born with music in his veins.

Both his parents were music teachers, and the guy started tinkering with the piano at the ripe age of 3. After a year at Berklee College of Music in Boston, he packed his bags for the Big Apple in ’89, scoring a gig as the pianist for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers at just 18. And get this, he was the last pianist to join the legendary crew from ’88 to ’90.

Jazz Maestro Geoffrey Keezer – Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers Alumni calls it the “perfect gig for a talented hard bop cat cut from the same cloth as Horace Silver, Bobby Timmons, Cedar Walton, James Williams, and Benny Green.”

Life After Art Blakey

Post-Art Blakey, Geoffrey teamed up with practically every big shot in jazz, including Art Farmer, Roy Hargrove, Antonio Hart, Bob Belden, Cecil Brooks III, Benny Golson, Jim Hall, and even spent three years on the road as the pianist for the Ray Brown Trio.

Life After Art Blakey
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The guy’s a recording wizard and is currently jamming with the Christian McBride Band. He’s laid down beats on labels like Sunnyside, Blue Note, DIW/Columbia, and Sackville, played the sideman role on seven Telarc albums, and has dropped at least nine albums as the main act. His latest project, “Sublime: Honoring the Music of Hank Jones,” is a big deal where he’s rocking with heavyweight pianists like Kenny Barron, Chick Corea, Benny Green, and Mulgrew Miller.

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Running Two Shows at Once

Right alongside that, in September 2003, he rolled out “Falling Up” on the Max Jazz label. This hard bop-flavored album pulls inspiration from Duke Ellington to Johann Sebastian Bach and was cooked up with his cozy trio – Scott Colley (Acoustic bass) and Karriem Riggins (drums). They brought in some cool cats like Steve Wilson (Alto Flute), Paul Bollenback (Acoustic Guitar), Claire Martin (Vocal), Ingrid Jensen (Flugelhorn), Joe Locke (Vibraphone), and more.

Back in 2000, he dropped an innovative solo album named “Zero One” under the Dreyfus/GMN label. In ’98, he worked on “Turn Up the Quiet” (Sony), featuring Grammy-winning vocalist Diana Krall, saxophonist Joshua Redman, and Christian McBride.

Youtube video by Geoffrey Keezer

Team Projects and Cool Collabs

Art blakey and the jazz messengers alumni Geoffrey, along with pianists Harold Mabern and Mulgrew Miller, hooked up with James Williams to pay tribute to Phineas Newborn, resulting in the CD “Four Pianos for Phineas” (1989/Evidence). Fun fact – all four of them tickled the ivories together.

In ’91, at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Geoffrey and the piano crew hit the stage again. This time, each player had their piano. Add in another pianist, Donald Brown, with a rule of only four playing at a time, and the Contemporary Piano Ensemble was born. With bassist Christian McBride and drummer Tony Reedus on the beat, they dropped the album “The Key Players” (1993/DIW).

Beyond Jazz Jams

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers Alumni Geoffrey threw down Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ in ’92 with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri. He also joined forces with the globally renowned classical artist Barbara Hendricks, mixing jazz into their tours in Japan and Europe.

Time magazine gave him a shoutout, saying Geoffrey’s got “a refreshingly open-eared sensibility in the modern manner, and he has more than enough virtuosity and sheer musical wit and intelligence to weave all of his apparently disparate strands of influence into an original and compelling whole.”

And, oh yeah, Geoffrey’s not just tickling the keys; he’s also composing tunes like ‘Palm Reader’ for the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, ‘Concerto for Orchestra and Piano,’ ‘listen look’ for The Saint Joseph Ballet, and ‘Variables,’ a piano and string quartet jam he penned for the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego.

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