Full Scale Jazz
Classic iconoclast Roger Kellaway brings his genre-bending jazz explorations to Monterey and Marina with local guitar hero Bruce Forman.
Thursday, June 8, 2006
Roger Kellaway doesn’t concern himself with categories. A widely revered jazz pianist for more than four decades, Kellaway has explored so many different musical avenues that he’s often outpaced even his most ardent fans. A brief tour of his résumé reveals a breadth of experiences that would do credit to half a dozen musicians, including an Academy Award nomination for the score of Barbra Streisand’s A Star Is Born, a tour with Joni Mitchell at the height of her popularity, a commission for a George Balanchine ballet, and authorship of the closing theme, “Remembering You,” for the pioneering sitcom All In The Family.
As an accompanist, he’s recorded with a myriad of jazz legends, such as Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Gerry Mulligan and Carmen McRae. And as a leader he made a series of classic albums for A&M in the 1970s with the Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet, a group that blended jazz, European and Indian classical influences. Through it all, Kellaway has distinguished himself as a musician and composer who moves easily between musical idioms and combines them in original ways.
“I was already going in quite a few directions by the time I was in my mid-teens,” says Kellaway, 66, who performs in a duo with Carmel Valley’s own jazz guitar master, Bruce Forman, on Saturday at Monterey Live and Sunday afternoon at Central Coast Creative Center in Marina. Sunday’s performance, which also features local bassist/vocalist Dennis Murphy and Chicago guitarist Patrick Ferrari, is a benefit concert for Jazzmasters Workshop, a program founded by Forman that provides musical mentoring to young musicians.
For Kellaway, music continues to be an unfettered realm in which he sees how all sounds are connected. “I don’t like to think about music with a limited definition because it has so many different experiences and everything crosses over,” Kellaway says. “Even my straight-ahead jazz style has a lot of 20th Century classical influences. That’s a great part of who I am, because I’ve spent 35 years listening to it and absorbing those concepts of sound and space.”
His latest album, Remembering Bobby Darin, was inspired by one of his formative experiences, touring with Darin from 1966-68 as the charismatic crooner’s music director (“I learned all my stage timing with Bobby Darin,” Kellaway says.) It’s a beautifully rendered trio session with Forman and bassist Dan Lutz that focuses on the standards and pop tunes associated with Darin.
If the music seems particularly fresh, maybe it’s because Kellaway has been living with it recently, having worked with Kevin Spacey as he prepared to play Darin in the biopic Beyond the Sea, and then touring with him as accompanist and music director when he performed Darin’s music in nightclubs.
Now Kellaway’s primary musical vehicle, the trio is releasing a new album, Heroes, this month, a tribute to pianist Oscar Peterson’s torrential trio of the 1950s with bassist Ray Brown and guitarist’s Barney Kessel (and later Herb Ellis).
“That trio was so powerful, it’s something that impressed me so deeply in my childhood,” Kellaways says. “I ended up playing a lot with Herb Ellis and a reasonable amount with Ray Brown, and I always wanted to have a trio like that, but I waited all this time to do it.”
Looking for a guitarist who could both play rhythm parts and follow him in any musical direction, Kellaway recalled that he had enjoyed playing with Forman at a jazz party in Phoenix in the early ‘90s. They’ve been playing together for the past three years, and Kellaway is taking full advantage of the guitarist’s facility for playing in odd meters.
“Roger is one of the great eccentric geniuses of jazz,” Forman says. “I’ve always admired his incredible diversity. He’s played everything from classical to jazz, Dixieland, swing and avant garde. There’s this playfulness and sense of discovery, youthful exuberance and old-world depth in everything he does. He’s phenomenally gifted in that way, there are just no boundaries when he sits down at the piano.”
ROGER KELLAWAY AND BRUCE FORMAN play Monterey Live, 414 Alvarado St. in Monterey, Saturday, June 10, at 7pm. $25-$28. 646-1415. Their encore takes place at the Central Coast Creative Center, 455 Reservation Rd., Marina on Sunday, June 11, at 4pm. $35. 884-9672.