I was a trifle trepidatious when I noted the title to Calvin Keys' latest, Close Enough for Love, but I shouldn't have been. I was at first worried he might've travelled over the horizon to The Carpenters' side of town, to a moony drippy gooey MOR sugar-fest, but such is not the case, not even vaguely, and what knocked me out in his last release, Electric Keys (here), is even more refined and daring this time out, emphasis on 'daring'. I'd forgotten Johnny Mandel had written a Close Enough for Love song, and that's what Keys covers solo as in intro in Romantic fashion, wistful while classically literate in a chamber jazz vein. Then Blues for Ahmed literally erupts in Dawan Muhammad's always superb sax, and we're off to the races.
Muhammad (here) co-produced the CD and appears on only three cuts, but his is the perfect counterpoint to Keys and that guitar of his. And, good lord, does Keys ever show his width, breadth, and inventiveness in Ahmed! This is precisely the sort of magnetic, audacious, electrifying, irresistible sound that turned me on to George Benson when I finally tumbled to his work in the late 60s / early 70s. Then a very hip clerk at Platterpuss Records in Redondo Beach turned me on to Grant Green, and I couldn't get enough. I rarely use the term 'thrilling' because it's been such a beaten-up adjective for decades, but I can't tell y'all what a thrill I get deep inside when I can lay an ear to such blissful work as Keys'.
There's also a lot of John Abercrombie present, especially in Dolphin Dance (with resplendent bass lines from Tim Hauf), and that's not an unusual thing, 'cause Keys is as fusiony as the best—Coryell, Scofield, Stern, Ulmer, you name 'em—but without all the overdrive and distortion, reveling in the pure sound Les Paul created when he became a Tesla with the six-string axe. Close Enough for Love collects 10 unreleased songs over a 21 year period (earliest cut: 1992; most recent: 2013), but it all sounds of a piece, as fresh as tomorrow but solidly wrought from the incredible ferment that began over 50 years ago in the jazz realm.
By the way, Keys and Muhammad have adjoining berths in the Life Force label. And there I was, pining backwards to Dawan's excellent Preachin' to the Choir (linked above) and, lo and behold!, his Smoke Signal with Billy Higgins was the next disc in my backlog. Sweeeeeet (hop on over to that review, [here])! This prompted me to jump to the imprint's website and, good God!, there was one of my all-time favorite cats looking back at me: Eddie Henderson (he appeared on Muhammad's Lifeforce)! I can't tell you how many times I've played Eddie's super righteous LP quintet from the 70s (chronologically: Realization, Inside Out, Sunburst, Heritage, and Mahal) over the last 40+ years. They're among the most played sides in my 50,000+ piece collection, absolutely entrancing. So, if all these guys are your cup of tea, you really need to check this mighty label out.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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