Terry Teachout’s ecstatic review of pianist Roger Kellaway’s new drummerless trio makes me want to hop a plane to New York. Kellaway has lived in California for years. He is back in The Apple for an engagement at the Jazz Standard.
The three men opened the set with a super-sly version of Benny Golson’s “Killer Joe,” and within four bars you knew they were going to swing really, really hard. So they did, with Kellaway pitching his patented curve balls all night long, including a bitonal arrangement of Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash” and what surely must have been the first time that the Sons of the Pioneers’ “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” has ever been performed by a jazz group.
To read all of TT’s hymn of praise, go here.
There’s nothing new about Kellaway’s wizardry. It’s just that for a few years his playing took a back seat to his composing and arranging. He came back into the public ear as a pianist with a flourish that coincided with the 2004 film biography of Bobby Darin, for whom Kellaway was once musical director. His solo CD of songs associated with Darin was one of the piano album highlights of last year. If you’re not a Darin enthusiast, don’t worry; you needn’t be to appreciate what Kellaway does with the music. Here’s a bit of what I wrote in Jazz Times about I Was There.
The quality of playing here is so high that it’s difficult to designate one track as an apogee among the performances. I lean toward Berlin’s “All By Myself,” with its headlong swing, orchestral depth and a shout chorus worthy of the Count Basie brass section in the Harry Edison-Buck Clayton days. But, then, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” has Kellaway’s flawless runs and arpeggios complementing and commenting on the melody, putting that timeless ballad in a new light.
To read the entire review, go here. Kellaway followed up the solo album with a trio CD of music Darin sang, employing the drastically underappreciated guitarist Bruce Foreman and bassist Dan Lutz. If you’ve been asleep on Roger Kellaway, now’s the time to wake up.
But he really ought to take a second to google before making such a statement about “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.” I found George Shearing and Kim Richmond versions.