North Park musician get’s Grammy nod
By Manny Lopez
For pianist and composer Geoffrey Keezer, a multi-Grammy nominee from North Park, playing music isn’t just a career, it’s a soul path and how he lives in the world.
Recently, Keezer garnered a Grammy nod for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist for “Don’t Explain,” a project by Los Angeles singer Denise Donatelli, which he produced and arranged.
“It’s feels nice after 22 years to get some kind of recognition, but I don’t do this to win Grammys,” Keezer said. “I play music because this is what I love to do.” The nomination represents Keezer’s second in two years. His first came in 2009 in the “Best Latin Jazz Album” category for a CD he titled “Aurea.”
Originally from Eau Claire, Wis., Keezer’s career catapulted in 1989, while he was only 18 years old, when Art Blakey gave him a call to say Keezer was to become a Jazz Messenger, a job which took him to almost every corner of the world. He turned out to be the last pianist to play in that band. Blakey died about a year later.
Since then, Keezer has had 11 solo releases and has appeared as a leader and accompanist on many recordings with world-class artists from all genres of music. Among his latest projects is a local band, which he described as a contemporary acoustic jazz quartet consisting of himself on piano, guitarist Peter Sprague and drummer Duncan Moore, both from San Diego, and bassist Hamilton Price from Los Angeles.
“I feel inspired here in San Diego,” said Keezer. “I wanted to create a situation where I could play creative, forward-thinking music on the highest level without having to get on an airplane to do it.” The band’s next performance will take place at the Seville Theatre on the campus of San Diego City College on Jan. 11. A CD of the band’s work is expected to be released in January.
“I’ve lived all over the world, but San Diego is my favorite,” Keezer said. “Whenever I come home, I feel like I’m on vacation.”
Keezer has lived in North Park for the last two years along with his wife, Susan Wulff, associate principal bassist with the San Diego Symphony, and their son, Cameron. The two met while performing at the Mainly Mozart festival in La Jolla about 12 years ago, and have been married since 2006.
The couple occasionally work together on projects, but according to Keezer, those opportunities usually only come when it’s a project that he invents. Wulff performed on Donatelli’s “Don’t Explain” and helped to coordinate on recording sessions.
Keezer said that this year’s Grammy’s will be very encouraging to watch because of music such as Bobby McFerrin’s latest release called “Vocabularies.” He described it as a monumental piece of contemporary choral music that is not a normal jazz record at all and breaks the mold of retro-inspired bands that take a formulaic approach to playing Jazz music.
“Listen to Jazz music anywhere in the country and it’s very difficult to hear any new ideas or new statements being made,” said Keezer. “It’s not that there isn’t anything new being done, it’s just that it’s not getting heard because either labels are not interested in recording it or the radio stations are not interested in playing it.”
Winners of the 53rd annual Grammy awards will be announced on Feb. 13.
More information on Geoffrey Keezer can be found at geoffreykeezer.com.