And there’s one composition apiece by the older jazz pianists James Williams and Donald Brown, who both preceded Keezer in the Jazz Messengers, and have had an influence on his style. It’s instructive to keep Williams in the back of your mind when you hear Keezer’s gospel-infused arrangement of Limelight, the Rush song; likewise Gabriel’s Come Talk to Me, which he tricks out with sparkling arpeggios.
The pianism on Heart of the Piano is never less than impressive: rhythmically sure, harmonically sound, full of brisk subtleties of touch. And yet Keezer, who will play one set in celebration of the album on Tuesday evening at Birdland, rarely sounds as if he’s in exhibition mode. The dazzling breadth of his playing feels warranted, because for him a solo piano record is no occasion for solitude.
— Nate Chinen, NY Times News Service
GHIL, Okkyung Lee, Ideologic Organ/Editions Mego
Okkyung Lee’s Ghil consists of nine solo-cello improvisations. It is not the standard solo-cello recording ideal: it has no room tone, no physical distance for the slowly decaying notes to reach your ear. Instead, imagine the making of a large and sophisticated knife: the sawing and buffing and quenching and grinding and drilling and precise heat treatments. Imagine the knife is also a microphone, and the knifemaker is an improviser.
Lee, who is Korean, has worked in New York since 2000 in a lot of different contexts: with improvisers like Evan Parker and Peter Evans, with the turntablist and conceptual artist Christian Marclay, with the performance artist Laurie Anderson. Some of her earlier records, Nihm and Noisy Love Songs, put her textured playing over minimal composed sections for small ensembles. They were good, often restrained and elegant, mediated by their time and place. Ghil is of no time or place and has no need for the construct of elegance. It’s directly from Lee, with edits but no overdubs. You’re not hearing traditional technique, but you are hearing an excellent musician’s physical and emotional connection to her instrument. You’re inside the connection, basically. These are real noisy love songs.
It was produced by Lasse Marhaug, the Norwegian noise musician, who recorded Lee last year in a number of different locations in and around Oslo — indoors, outdoors, downtown, in a forest — all on a portable cassette recorder from, apparently, 1976. Sometimes an amplifier seems to be involved, sometimes not; sometimes the sound overpowers the gear and the recording breaks up. You’ll understand it as a part of the record, not a flaw.
The microphone placement keeps a respectful distance on the first track, “The Crow Flew After Yi Sang,” but soon it’s directly on the instrument. You hear the friction of bow on strings, and the competing frequencies of notes in a chord, beating like a giant engine. Lee gets into repetition and drones — the last three minutes of The Space Beneath My Grey Heart is something to hear — but she’s constantly making decisions, moving toward some area of greater resonance, greater intensity.