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Vertical Clearance by Calvin Keys

An active participant within the San Francisco jazz scene, guitarist Calvin Keys has been in the trenches for years via gigs with crooner Tony Bennett, sax great Sonny Stitt and blues master Taj Mahal. This endeavor stands as the follow-up to his widely acclaimed solo effort titled Calvinesque. With jazz luminaries such as saxophonist Sonny Fortune and organist Doug Carn augmenting the extensive cast of musicians, the guitarist generates a hybrid, retro-contemporary jazz-groove slant.

Enhanced by the pristine audio production, Keys embarks upon an uptempo vibe where Latin pulses are fused with grinding rhythms and punchy horns choruses. Keys interleaves brisk single-note licks throughout. Sporting a warm-toned electric guitar sound, the artist renders swift flurries amid linearly designed progressions, spiced up with tension and release type chutzpah. It’s a peppery, groove-drenched mix, indeed.

Keys is a slick manipulator and a master craftsman. On "Proceed With Caution ’06," he soars skyward, coupled with diminutive phrasings atop a buoyant straight-ahead swing vamp as the rhythm section kicks matters into high gear. Then on "Maximum Height," he executes breezy unison lines with vibist Roger Glenn, while the band launches into a sprightly Latin-jazz movement during the bridge. However in other spots, the musicians partake in knotty time signatures and pumping jazz-funk exercises.

The guitarist has produced a veritable winner here. Besides his enviable technical faculties, the preponderance of these works are engineered with memorable melodies and multifaceted arrangements, beckoning repeated spins. (A top-20 pick for 2006).

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Calvin Keys
  • CD Title: Vertical Clearance
  • Genre: Soul / Funk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Widehive Records
  • Rating: Four Stars
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