Roger Kellaway – Live At Mezzrow (ENG review)

Cellar Music Group and SmallsLIVE Foundation – Street Date May 5th 2024
Roger Kellaway - Live At Mezzrow

Once again, one of the great artists of our era, a pianist, composer, arranger, delivers to us here a live album. Always inspired by the trios of Nat King Cole and Oscar Peterson, Kellaway comments: “I was so honored to have received the 2023 Living Masters Award from the SmallsLIVE Foundation. This opportunity gave me the chance to come to the East and simply play with my longtime colleague, Jay Leonhart on bass, and a musician whom I deeply admire (new to my trio), Dennis Mackrel on drums.”

From the beginning of this album, one is struck by the fluidity of Kellaway’s pianistic expression, a magical style for laying down notes. “Try to Remember” is arranged imperially, deconstructed with supreme intelligence, with shades of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Billy Strayhorn, and more. Here, the pianist once again stamps his mark, offering his vision of titles like “All Blues,” “Blue In Green,” “So What,” and many more, bringing us to a welcome form of sonic shock, where jazz takes its place as a beautiful devil infused with beauty, everything an artist who has expressed himself for many years alongside the greatest can bring to these works, without altering them in the process.

Kellaway’s exceptional production began in 1963 with his first album, “A Portrait of Roger Kellaway.” It continued with his many years as an arranger for a variety of musical celebrities including Melanie, Liza Minnelli, and Carmen McRae – his work as a session musician with personalities such as George Harrison, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, and Kenny Burrell. Kellaway has recorded over 250 albums and composed over 20 film soundtracks (including for the 1976 adaptation of “A Star is Born”).

Roger Kellaway’s talent not only lies in his performance; beyond a certain expertise, there is a vision of musical writing and arrangements that is unique to him, never seeking to impress anyone, and ultimately, Roger Kellaway subtly offers us an imaginative vision of his career, each moment of which is a true feast. While there are no original compositions here, the impressive arrangement work allows one to loop his version of “So What” to listen and re-listen to the drumming, bass, and piano that beautifully underpin the title’s introduction.

The conductor notes regarding his album: “It requires everything to be arranged and a lot of rehearsals.” The deviation from this instrumentation for this release allows greater freedom for each of the musicians, creating the marked ease and conversational flow that are the hallmarks of this album. Kellaway continues: “For the repertoire, I decided to mainly choose historical jazz standards that I have always loved… I invited guitarist Roni Ben-Hur to be my special guest, and I arranged two pieces written by Ettore Stratta; ‘Pages of Life’ and ‘Good Morning Bahia’.”

This new album is a discreet delight that only asks to be listened to with passion, to become “indispensable” for you as it has been for me.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, April 28th 2024

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