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10/10/13

Geoffrey Keezer
Heart of the Piano
Motema

Pianist Geoffrey Keezer’s first solo album in 13 years is tasteful, classy and polite. It puts on full display his technical facility and his ingenuity in reimagining pop and rock songs. It also risks being too precious and at times borders on dullness.

Eight of the 10 tunes are covers, and the choices are inspired and unexpected. It takes guts to kick off a solo-piano jazz album with a cover of Rush’s “Limelight.” Keezer reworks the song to the point where only snatches are easily identifiable. The melody is twisted to conform to the way he’d like to hear the song, and it works because it is so surprising. Keezer reshapes Peter Gabriel’s “Come Talk to Me” in a similar vein, allowing pieces of the theme to poke through and employing left-hand patterns as a rhythmic device.

Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this is how George Winston would play this song and the others. With no disrespect to Mr. Winston, the music of Heart of the Piano seems to lack much in the way of emotion. It is more recital than soul-stirring performance. No question, Keezer demonstrates amazing ability. His detours are well plotted, his ruminations well designed. But that’s also the problem. His takes on Alanis Morissette’s “Still” and K.T. Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See” come off as bland, and his balladry on two lesser-known songs written by pianists—Donald Brown’s “New York” and James Williams’ “Take Time for Love”—won’t move you anywhere but to sleep. There’s nothing really wrong with Keezer’s latest outing, but it feels more brain than heart.

Originally published in September 2013
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