|Often overshadowed by electric guitar, the piano has played a significant role in the development of modern blues, R&B, and rock ‘n’ roll. Born with the perfect name, New Yorker Dave Keyes has spent his life pushing the keyboards into the limelight and carrying the torch of his heroes – Fats Domino, Dr. John, Johnny Johnson, and Professor Longhair, to name just a few. This mission has earned him three Blues Music Award nominations and landed him gigs on Broadway, in television and work on the road with big name acts and his own touring band.
For his sixth album, Rhythm Blues & Boogie, Keyes dug deeper into the roots of his passion on nine original tracks and one special cover that spell out his musical influences. Keyes invited special guests for sessions recorded in New York, New Jersey, and Memphis, including the legendary drummer Bernard Purdie, the much-loved Doug MacLeod, guitar ace Early Times and the irascible Popa Chubby. They are joined by members of his NYC crew, guitarist John Putnam and drummer Frank Pagano with Jeff Anderson on bass and the horn section of Chris Eminizer on sax and trumpeter Tim Ouimette, who spent years with Keyes in the pit orchestra of the Grammy-winning Broadway show, Smokey Joe’s Café.
Keyes opens the affair by beckoning us to get out on the dance floor and move, groove, twist, and shout and “Shake Shake Shake,” as the easy Memphis styled anthem features a sweet tenor solo from Eminizer and a classic shuffle from “Pretty” Purdie, setting the table for good things to come. Hot horn jabs and a sizzling lead guitar bolster Keyes piano and vocals on the driving “That’s What The Blues Are For.” The quasi-title track, “Blues And Boogie,” is based on a Stagger Lee framework with layers of horns, a shout out chorus of vocals, a bumping rhythm and a Friday night let’s party attitude with Early Times on guitar. Keyes then scales it back and croons a solo number on piano, delivering an emotional take of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Purdie brings us in with a second line street beat for “Ain’t Doing That No More,” and spicey keys, horns, slide guitar and singalong chorus fuel the Cajun parade.
Keyes speaks about self-determination as the band digs deep into the groove of the soulful “Ain’t Going Down.” And then displays his formidable chops and mastery of the 88’s during the solo track “WBGO Boogie,” named after the Newark jazz and blues radio station. The salsa flavored “Not Fighting Anymore” is peppered with twisting rhythms of a man determined to wrestle himself out of a troubled relationship. It must have been tough for Keyes and MacLeod to keep a straight face on the session for their marvelous collaboration on the acoustic blues “Invisible Man” and its old timers’ lament.
The album finale “7 O’clock Somewhere,” is a theatrical showstopper dedicated to the frontline workers who selflessly carry us through these troubled times, delivered with gratitude and glee. Rhythm Blues & Boogie is proof positive that good things happen when you gather friends and family for a project and Dave Keyes has every right to wear those honors with pride.
Rick J Bowen
New York City native keyboardist, singer and songwriter Dave Keyes is a 30-year veteran of the blues, roots, and Americana music scene. The three-time Blues Music Award nominee, who has released six highly acclaimed albums under his own name, was named the “Best Unsigned Artist” by Keyboard magazine.
Keyes has performed both at home and abroad with some of the most prominent figures of blues, roots, and folk music, including long musical relationships with Odetta, David Johansen, Bo Diddley, rockabilly legend Sleepy LaBeef and gospel great Marie Knight. For the last 10 years, in addition to his own band and solo gigs, Dave has collaborated with bluesman Popa Chubby, gospel/blues innovator Alexis P. Suter and the Ministers of Sound, and the late rock and roll queen Ronnie Spector. Additionally, Keyes has held sideman duties in support of a veritable who’s who of roots music masters, including Eddy Clearwater, Big Jay McNeely, Tracy Nelson, Gladys Knight, Pam Tillis, Darlene Love, and the late greats Ruth Brown, Lou Rawls, and Levon Helm.
Over the last 20 years, Keyes has worked in many roles for both Broadway shows and TV, most notably during the six-year Grammy-winning Broadway smash run of Smokey Joe’s Café. He also served as the musical director and band leader for the nationally syndicated NBC TV morning show “The Ainsley Harriott show.” Since then, he has conducted and performed in the orchestras of Broadway musicals Lennon, Urban Cowboy, and the Earth Wind & Fire-inspired Hot Feet.