The Joe Locke /Geoffrey Keezer Group is a powerhouse of a quartet. Since both musicians had independent, well-established careers before teaming up, their names vie for top billing.
On vibraphone, Joe Locke is a worthy successor to past vibe masters Bobby Hutcherson and Milt Jackson. As a jazz musician, Locke was precocious, having played with such luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Pepper Adams and Mongo Santamaria before he was even out of high school. Since moving to New York City in 1981, Joe has performed with Grover Washington Jr., Kenny Barron, Dianne Reeves, Eddie Daniels, Jerry Gonzales' Fort Apache Band, Rod Stewart, The Beastie Boys, Eddie Henderson, Hiram Bullock, Bob Berg, Ron Carter, Jimmie Scott, Geoffrey Keezer, The Mingus Big Band and Randy Brecker, among many others. His releases over the past two decades, first as a sideman, then as leader, showcase his talent for playing with both lyrical beauty and incredible speed.
Geoffrey Keezer was a piano prodigy from a family of musicians. He began to study piano at age 3. After one year at Berklee College of Music, at 18, he turned down an offer to play with Miles Davis, instead choosing to join Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. He has worked with virtually all of the living legends of jazz and has appeared on countless recordings both as a leader and as a side man. In addition to his 11 solo releases and constant touring, Geoffrey has also been commissioned to compose several pieces for public performance, including "Variables," a set of variations for piano and string quartet written for the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego, and "Southeast Alaska Suite," commissioned by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.
The unique combination of vibraphone and piano creates a space much larger than the sum of its parts - one in which these two brilliant improvisers and clever accompanists can really get down to work. When Locke lays down the full, ringing tones of his vibraphone, Keezer takes off at full throttle; and when Keezer's sophisticated spatial sense launches the chords, Locke works his four mallets with fiery skill. Even when navigating tricky chord progressions at rocket speeds, they never lose their deep sense of swing. Their 2006 release, Live in Seattle, is one of the best recordings for the year and features all original material that is compositionally interesting with compelling performances by the entire band.
The quartet's releases from the last two years are melodically rich and endlessly inventive. Performing live, they are on another level altogether. Keezer and Locke not only play each other's nimble and lyrical compositions, but seem to think each other's musical thoughts.