Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z

Keller, Paul (Matthew)

Keller, Paul (Matthew), bassist, composer, educator; b. Tiffin, OH, 11 March 1962. His father is Rev. Ron L. Keller and his mother is Patricia Jane Keller. Paul Keller is the oldest of four children (Paul, Laurel, Brad, Brent).  As the family of a United Methodist minister, the Kellers moved frequently to new parishes throughout West Michigan.  Music pervaded the Keller household and churches.  Paul's mother played flute and piano and his father played clarinet and piano.

Paul began his formal musical training in 2nd grade playing violin for two years under the instruction of Mrs. Estes.  The Kellers moved to Rockford, MI and then to Grand Rapids, MI where Paul switched to the string bass in 6th grade in 1973.  Paul was fortunate to have a wonderful teacher, Mr. Joseph Dieke, who gave Paul free bass lessons every Monday morning at 7:00 am for the entire 1973-74 school year.  Paul's love of classical music and jazz intensified throughout his high school years. Paul fell in love with the Oscar Peterson Trio while attending East Grand Rapids Jr. High School. He has made a lifelong study of the music of his most important mentor, Ray Brown. Keller played his first jazz gigs when he was 16 years old at the Foxhead Inn in Ada, MI withs axophonist/clarinetist/owner Tom Strang and legendary Kansas City pianist Harold "Popeye" Booker. Paul graduated from East Grand Rapids High School in 1980 and attended the University of Michigan School of Music in Ann Arbor, MI, where he pursued his classical music training, all the while honing his jazz chops.

Keller began a long association with pianist John Shea in 1983, when they were both bandmates in drummer Bennie Carew's trio called Bennie Carew and his Fabulous Two.  It is in this band that Keller gained vital knowledge of jazz trio playing, building and memorizing a vast repertoire of standards, the work ethic of rehearsing and researching new material and presenting jazz in a dignified and entertaining fashion.

After Carew's death in 1984, the John Shea Trio became a fixture on the West Michigan jazz scene, first with drummer Ric Troll, and then with drummer Pete Siers.  The John Shea Trio played 5 nights a week for 4 years at the Harley Hotel of Grand Rapids and many summers at Billie's Boathouse in Saugatuck, MI. 

Keller's first experience as a leader came in 1985 when he formed Daddy-O, a 10-piece big band that played twice a week for two years at the Pier 28 Restaurant in Grand Rapids, MI. It was at this time that Keller began his love affair with arranging music for larger ensembles.
Keller moved back to Ann Arbor in 1988 to play with pianist Eddie Russ. This association led to work with many Detroit jazz musicians including saxophonist Larry Nozero. With Nozero, Keller recorded three CDs (Kaleidoscopin', Grand Hotel and Street Of Dreams).
On October 23, 1988 Paul married Michelle Elizabeth Mokma from Saugatuck, MI.

In 1989, Paul began playing piano at the Bird of Paradise Jazz Club with vibraphonist Cary Kocher. This union grew into the Keller/Kocher Quartet, a group with a special love for the music of George Shearing. The KKQ played at the Bird of Paradise every Tuesday for eight years. The KKQ recorded a CD entitled Pipe and Slippers. Keller formed his big band, The Bird Of Paradise Orchestra, at this same time, starting as a nine-piece band and using the old Daddy-O charts.

Eventually the BOPO grew to become a 16-piece band and the book grew to over 500 arrangements, many written by Paul. The BOPO recorded four CDs while they were associated with the Bird of Paradise. Hallelujah Train features the BOPO with boogie-woogie pianist Mr. B. Project X is a live recording made at the Bird of Paradise. In 1998 Keller formed BOPO Records to produce future Bird of Paradise Orchestra recordings. Soon there were two more CDs, BINGO! and Paris Blues, each with a wide variety of big band music from the entire history of jazz. BOPO Records has grown to help many other Southeast Michigan jazz artists to produce their own jazz CDs. The BOPO toured Spain and Switzerland in 2000 and 2001 performing concerts in Barcelona, Madrid, Zaragosa, Geneva, Bern, Lusanne, Lugano and Zurich. The BOPO received two Washtenaw Council For The Arts Annie Awards for Excellence in the Performing Arts and a Detroit Music Award for Best traditional Act. Paul was honored in 2001 by the West Michigan Jazz Society as their Jazz Musician of the Year and Paul received the 2002 Detroit Music Award for Outstanding Jazz Instrumentalist.

Keller joined guitarist Russell Malone in 1993 and together with pianist Gary Motley and drummer Pete Siers, they recorded Black Butterfly for Columbia Records. This quartet performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, the JVC Festival, the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Istanbul Jazz Festival in Turkey and many others. Two years later Malone and Keller teamed up with pianist/vocalist Diana Krall. They toured the world extensively and performed at concerts and festivals throughout the US, Canada, Mexico, Japan and Europe. Krall, Malone and Keller recorded All For You-A Tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio for GRP/Impulse. This CD was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1996.
Paul came off the road in 1998 to spend more time with his wife and to pursue his writing and bandleading aspirations. On January 12, 2001 Paul's wife, Michelle, gave birth to their daughter, Leah Jane Keller in Ypsilanti, MI, their hometown.

In 2002, the Bird of Paradise Orchestra officially changed its name to the Paul Keller Orchestra and moved from the Bird of Paradise Jazz Club to the Firefly Club in Ann Arbor, MI. The PKO opened at the Firefly on Monday, April 1, 2002, reuniting the band with its vocalist and Firefly Club owner, Susan Chastain. The PKO plays every Monday at the Firefly and continues the 13 (plus) year Ann Arbor tradition of presenting excellent big band music.

The Paul Keller Orchestra has performed at the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival, The Petoskey Jazz Festival, The Michigan Jazz Festival, The Flint, Warren and Ann Arbor Jazz Festivals and has presented many special jazz concerts throughout Michigan. Paul leads a three horn jazz sextet called The Paul Keller Ensemble which plays at the Firefly Club every Wednesday and he works at the Firefly every Sunday with Bop Culture featuring pianist Rick Roe. Thanks to his friend and colleague, pianist Ellen Rowe, Paul was offered a position at the University of Michigan in 1997. He is now Professor of jazz bass in the UM Jazz Studies Department.

In the Detroit Metro area, Paul has gained a fine reputation as a well-respected leader and sideman. He works frequently with pianist Bess Bonnier and cornetist Tom Saunders. With Bonnier, Keller has recorded three CDs-Xmazz, Love Notes and Suite William. With Saunders, Keller has performed nationwide and throughout Switzerland and Austria at Jazzland. They have also recorded two CDs-Jazz Is Jazz and Call Of The Wild. Keller has recorded several CDs for the Arbor Records label.

Throughout the years, Paul has performed with many jazz luminaries in a variety of concert settings. Some of these artists include Cab Calloway, Joe Williams, James Moody, Norris Turney, Oliver Jones, Guido Basso, Don Thompson, Butch Miles, Jake Hanna, Buster Cooper, Spiegel Willcox, Jay McShann, Marian McPartland, Mark Elf, Neena Freelon, Illinois Jacquet, Doc Cheatham, Mark Murphy, Susannah McCorkle, Howard Alden, Warren and Alan Vache, Gene Bertoncini, Panama Francis, Eddie Daniels, Mulgrew Miller, Chuck Hedges, Bill and John Allred, Eddie Higgins, Johnny Varro, Barry Harris, Sam and Abe Most, Benny Green and Tommy Flanagan.

Paul and Michelle's first child, Leah Jane Keller was born on January 12, 2001. Paul and Michelle's second child, Nathaniel Thomas Keller was born on December 16, 2003.

Contact information:
Paul Keller at 734/484-1217 or email him at kellermusic@comcast.net

Back to Top