Roger Kellaway: Take Five
Roger Kellaway (piano)
Live at the Jazz Standard (IPO C1015)
Borislav Strulev (cello), Jay Leonhart (bass).
Composed by Paul Desmond.
Recorded: New York, May 2006
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
Anyone who knows my writing through my books or my reviews here at jazz.com realizes that I am a child of the jazz-fusion era. But I also hope those same people see that there is more to jazz for me than jazz-rock. I will always argue that fusion fans are among the most open of jazz fans. Many of us heard fusion first and then went back and studied its influences. This allowed us to live jazz in a different way than just growing up with it. We discovered we liked the big bands, Dizzy and Charlie, Miles and Coltrane, and on and on. Believe it or not, we hear all of their music in the best of fusion. The point is that even for hardcore fusion fans, there have always been traditional jazz tunes that have opened our ears and given us a better appreciation for the jazz genre and the jazz-rock music we loved. Recorded music has allowed us to have revelations 30, 40 or even 50 years after the fact.
In the 1970s, I was in the middle of my fusion discovery period. But I will never forget my first time hearing Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond playing the live version of "Take Five" on the radio. That music was very much different than what I was listening to in those days. But it had the same mesmerizing effect. I wanted to hear more and I made sure I did.
So of course I learned about standards and what great jazz musicians do with them. I have heard many interpretations of "Take Five" over the years. Most fall short because the memory of the initial experience still overwhelms. Roger Kellaway, regarded as one of the world's most accomplished pianists, does not fall short on this one. That is because he presents the tune from a different perspective that does not compete with the original. That is the real key to any successful interpretation. Kellaway's arrangement is a heavily blues-based number that at times is a slow shuffle and at other times swings like hell. Kellaway doesn't dominate the historic opening riffs as Brubeck did. He leaves more space. Often the main melody is played by bassist Jay Leonhart. Each player takes a traditional solo turn. (Though a cello solo on "Take Five" is anything but traditional.) And boy, can these cats play! Kellaway is as dexterous and expressive as any jazz pianist I have heard. In fact, all these guys are world class. And I have not even mentioned that there are no drums! So Kellaway and gang are expert timekeepers, too. There is another surprise at song's end as some high-energy unison playing almost sounds like a slight nod to progressive rock.
If I were you, I would take the 8½ minutes to listen to this "Take Five." It is one of the most creative takes on a standard I have heard in years.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky