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Geoffrey Keezer: Falling Up

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If falling down begins with a rude disruption and ends quickly in a painful thud, then falling up would begin with something softly insinuating itself into your consciousness and, after a leisurely development, end by opening into something new. That’s the definition Geoffrey Keezer creates on Falling Up, anyway, and on it the pianist and several of his closest musical friends persuasively argue that the process is as universal as it is satisfying.

Falling Up explores a cornucopia of genres, but the album’s emotional core is the three Hawaiian songs that Keezer explores with Keola Beamer, a master of the Hawaiian slack-key guitar. The two men play these beautiful melodies with eloquent simplicity, intertwining their instrumental lines with an intimacy that shows the depth of their partnership.

Elsewhere, the music takes more complex materials on more eventful journeys. On the Keezer-penned title track, a relaxed yet snaky theme becomes sharply rhythmic in Ingrid Jensen’s flugelhorn, Steve Wilson’s flute and Keezer’s piano before a magical piano-and-guitar postscript. “Gollum’s Song” gets a searching take from Keezer, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Karriem Riggins, as Howard Shore’s sweeping, ambiguous harmonies are thoroughly explored, while the same trio finds a rich vein of autumnal lyricism in the normally ebullient Prelude to Bach’s “St. Anne’s Fugue.”

The most striking track is “Navigating by Starlight,” another Keezer original. Here, Keezer and Joe Locke conjure a sea of twinkles and ripples from two vibraphones while Jensen and Wilson barely breathe inward themes above; Keezer’s piano takes these themes out for further explorations before a return to starry skies. “Navigating by Starlight” successfully combines serene beauty with a questing spirit: perhaps a more apt definition of the essence of Falling Up.