CD Review: Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group – Signing

Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group – Signing
(Motéma Music. CD Review by Tom Gray)

UK audiences are probably most familiar with the pairing of vibraphonist Joe Locke and pianist Geoffrey Keezer through their work in Storms/Nocturnes alongside Tim Garland. This album sees these two virtuosi’s finely tuned musical empathy surviving in an altogether more muscular setting, stoked by the punchy electric bass playing of Mike Pope and the quietly powerful drumming of Terreon Gully. It is the first studio album released by this group, following their 2006 live debut, ‘Live in Seattle’.

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The music on ‘Signing’ covers ground somewhere between the rhythmically challenging fusion of the Chick Corea Elektric Band and the world-music inflected sound of the Pat Metheny Group, but is brought right into the present day thanks to Gully’s state-of-the-art grooves. His restlessly inventive responsiveness and his deft way with pulling apart the meter provide many of the album’s highlights, notably on his tour de force solo on ‘Darth Alexis’.

Two pieces from the Storms/Nocturnes repertoire are included here, and are given fascinating re-workings. ‘The Lost Lenore’ is punctuated by an infectious backbeat which lends some extra emotional bite, while ‘Her Sanctuary’ has a breezier feel, with the polyrhythms effortlessly taken care of by Gully, freeing up the soloists to stretch out further.

There is a liberal application of studio polish in places, but it never detracts from the high-calibre improvisations of Locke and Keezer. Their condensed solos cram in an array of ideas, building from bluesy musings to mesmerising vortices that rip through the upper registers of their instruments.

This is not an album that shies away from shows of technical prowess, but it succeeds where many forms of fusion have failed in retaining a human feel throughout.

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