Sunday night’s performance at Savanna’s by vocalist Julia Dollison and pianist Geoffrey Keezer was an exquisite look at modern jazz through the lens of contemporary songwriting.
Pianist Keezer is simply a young master with a wealth of experience and knowledge at his disposal along with a tremendous depth of feeling, which elevates his playing to often stunning moments. His solo rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” was a nonstop revelation of swinging, soulful ideas articulating the composer’s noirish romanticism.
And, that was just the beginning. Once Dollison came on, the pair worked back and forth through her repertoire for two intriguing sets. There were some classic songs creatively interpreted, such as Duke Ellington’s “In A Mellotone” and Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” reconfigured as “Nite Daze.” But the heart of both sets was given over to the reconstruction of newer songs from modern pop sources, such as the band Death Cab for Cutie and heartthrob John Mayer.
The pair debuted new songs (“Dreamland” by Sidsel Endresen and “Wild Horses,” written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards) from her project “Lifted,” which features Keezer, and interspersed such tunes as “All The Things You Are” and “Autumn In New York” from her first album “Observatory.”
Though “Observatory” features a fine ensemble, Keezer’s sublime empathy with the material makes it difficult to think that there is a stronger way to present the singer and her songs. Dollison’s voice is a wonderfully refined instrument, and Keezer’s supporting textures give ample space and depth for her inventive soloing and harmonizing within the songs.
The second set on Sunday finished with a flourish - including new songs “Stars” and “Safe and Sound” sandwiched around Dollison originals “Forward, Like So” and “Observatory.” Throughout, the interplay between musicians was continuously subtle, spontaneous and breathtaking.
Dollison and Keezer are recording “Lifted” through the Web-based music production site ArtistShare; see Dollison explain how it all works by clicking here.