A New York-based jazz duo will play St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Nanaimo as their first and only Canadian stop in a 13-day tour down the West Coast.
For pianist Geoffrey Keezer, his last in-person performance in Nanaimo was about 20 years ago; however, he and vocalist Gillian Margot both took part in a online series by the Friends of Nanaimo Jazz Society in 2021.
For the upcoming show, Keezer said they plan to play a wide variety of material “through the lens of jazz piano and voice,” including jazz standards from the Great American Songbook, showtunes, Brazilian songs, pop and rhythm and blues songs, as well as original material.
“We like to give the audience a variety of styles and tempos and moods – and some classic interaction between jazz piano and voice, in the tradition of the great duets,” the pianist said. “We don’t know know yet exactly what we’re going to do. We like to keep it spontaneous.”
Some of his favourites, he said, that the audience might hear include numbers off his 2018 album ‘On My Way to You’ featuring Margot. Keezer also released an album last year, titled ‘Playdate,’ that features guitarists Aayushi Karnik and Nir Felder, and percussionist Munyungo Jackson.
The pianist and vocalist originally met in Shanghai, China, through a mutual colleague while performing separate concert tours. Since that 2016 encounter, they have continued to collaborate with their complementary stylings.
“She’s a wonderful musician – not only an excellent vocalist but an interpreter of songs and composer. She writes her own music, writes her own lyrics and poetry. When you find someone that you like to work with, it just develops,” Keezer said of his duet counterpart.
As part of the jazz duo’s Nanaimo appearance, the concert will also feature Wellington Jazz Academy students Jonathan Pearce and Sarah Stevenson, who both won national and international music awards in 2022.
Keezer said he and Margot were introduced to the jazz academy’s music director, Carmella Luvisotto, initially through Nanaimo jazz musicians and sisters Ingrid and Christine Jensen.
“We like doing educational outreach as a component of our tours whenever possible,” Keezer said, adding that he and Margot also offer online master classes through www.openstudiojazz.com. “We’re helping to shape the future generation of musicians, and also helping to build the audience for what we do. There’s so many talented young musicians everywhere in the world.”
The pianist recalled that as a child, he had no other real option than to pursue music since both his parents were music teachers. Growing up in a small town in Wisconsin, he said he always appreciated when jazz musicians would come through, hold a master class, and provide him the opportunity to meet real “cats” and hear their stories.
“I grew up in a very musical environment and I didn’t really want to do anything else except play music. And thankfully I’ve been able to make a good living doing it,” Keezer said.
Throughout his career, he’s been nominated four times for Grammy Awards, and won the award for Instrumental Composition this year.
Keezer and Margot will hold a concert at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 4235 Departure Bay Rd., on Monday, Feb. 27, starting at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online through www.eventbrite.ca.
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