Paul Keller has big jazz plans for Ann Arbor this week
Michael Jewett: Celebrating 45 years of jazz broadcasting. 89 one WEMU. And today, we are catching up with Keller. It's been a while since we spoke with bassist and bandleader Paul Keller, who has a knack for staying busy. So, let's check in and find out, because today, Monday night, tonight, a big deal in town: the return of the Paul Keller Orchestra at the Zal Gaz Grotto Club. Good morning, Paul Keller. How you doing?
Paul Keller: Heavy duty, my friend. How you doing, Michael?
Michael Jewett: Heavy duty. Yeah, I know. Well, as the big band returns to its regular Monday night engagement at the Zal Gaz Grotto Club. How do you count the years? You know, WEMU is celebrating our 45th anniversary that the Paul Keller Orchestra is a little younger than us, I think.
Paul Keller: We're just right behind you. I think this is the beginning of our 34th season.
Michael Jewett: There you go. Yeah. Yeah.
Paul Keller: I guess that's just the way time works.
Michael Jewett: Yeah. Congratulations. And thank you for keeping it swinging and going for 30 plus years--34 years. So, congratulations on that.
Paul Keller: Thank you. I'm happy to be at the at the point of the arrow. But the guys that that really make it work are all of our local jazz heroes that have been sticking with me for 34 years.
Michael Jewett: Right. Right.
Paul Keller: They're an amazing crew and an amazing ride. It's pretty cool.
Michael Jewett: A lot of the ranks of the band, they've been there for decades. A lot of original members.
Paul Keller: I know. It's pretty great. Pete Siers is on drums all the time. You know, sadly, Pete is in Europe right now. Well, sadly for us.
Michael Jewett: Right. Right.
Paul Keller: He's not going to be there tonight.
Michael Jewett: Oh, wow.
Paul Keller: But, this is really great because Kerry Kocher...we all know Kerry Kocher as a vibraphonist and drummer. Well, our special guest tonight is Chuck Redd, who is also a vibraphonist and drummer.
Michael Jewett: Right. Right.
Paul Keller: So, they're going to switch off back and forth.
Michael Jewett: Oh, how cool is that? Chuck Redd, for those of you who may not be familiar, a journeyman musician. He's been out there for years, probably best known....I think he came up with Charlie Bird is maybe his big kind of like breakthrough gig, but he's played with a lot of folks that are kind of like in your circle, Jeff Hamilton, John Clayton, the great Ray Brown, and some others. So, he's been out there doing, you know, stuff with other people, as well as his own things. Fabulous. I would say, well, do we think of his like Kerry like primarily a vibraphonist who can also swing on drums?
Paul Keller: You know, like Kerry Kocher, I think that Chuck was originally a drummer. In fact, I'm sure that he was originally a drummer because he played with the great guitars. Herb Ellis--
Michael Jewett: Right.
Paul Keller: Charlie Castle and Charlie Bird. He was the drummer in that band.
Michael Jewett: Well, now I have to. I have to circle back. Kerry Kocher was originally a drummer?
Paul Keller: Oh, gosh. Yeah. It wasn't until Kerry then joined me at The Bird of Paradise when I was playing solo piano. I said, "Kerry, I need some help. Somebody got to play the melodies for me." And he brought in his vibraphone, and he learned how to play the vibes.
Michael Jewett: Whoa.
Paul Keller: Right there with me hacking away at the piano. Thank you, Ron Brooks, for that Bird of Paradise opportunity.
Michael Jewett: Now, see, this is the beauty of jazz radio and just talking. It's this is what I see. This is the thing I learned today. I don't know. I figured, you know, I figured Kerry was a vibraphonist all these years.
Paul Keller: I got to do a quick side note. Did you know that we're doing a tribute to Ron Brooks at Kerrytown Concert House on Friday, September 16th.
Michael Jewett: Oh, okay. That's later. Yeah.
Paul Keller: Oh, yeah. We've got a mayoral proclamation. Friday, September 16 is going to be Ron Brooks Day.
Michael Jewett: And it's this Friday. It's this Friday. This Friday. Ron Brooks Day. Okay.
Paul Keller: It is! This is a hell of a week! Oh, my gosh! This week with Chuck Redd at the at Kerrytown Concert Hall is on Tuesday and Zal Gaz Grotto with the big band. All those Terry Gibbs pre band charts and then later on, we'll be with Ron Brooks on Ron Brooks Day on Friday. What a day!
Michael Jewett: What a day! What a week! Talk about jam packed. So, tonight in its 34th year, the Paul Keller Orchestra returning. That's every Monday night, Zal Gaz Grotto Club, west side of Ann Arbor with special guest vibraphonist and drummer Chuck Redd. That is tonight at the Zal Gaz Grotto Club. And then, tomorrow night, you downsize a bit. It's you and a--I guess would be a sextet. I know Randy is going to be playing guitar. Sara D'Angelo being Sara D'Angelo. Vocals and clarinet. Sara being Sara.
Paul Keller: That's right. She makes every gig better.
Michael Jewett: Yeah. By my count, that's a sextet. I had to make sure I'm counting.
Paul Keller: Correct.
Michael Jewett: Chuck Redd and guest, if you will, and special guest at the Kerrytown Concert House tomorrow night. And then, this Friday, a big tribute and celebration. Ron Brooks Day in Ann Arbor, also at the Kerrytown Concert House. Well, you know, catching up. You know, I was thinking we got to catch up with Paul Keller. He's always busy. You're busier then I even knew. How do you do it? What's the secret? What's the secret?
Paul Keller: Busy summer for me.
Michael Jewett: Yeah, busy, indeed. Just as, you know, as we're kind of coming down from the Detroit Jazz Festival, you play the...I don't say Michigan Jazz Festival, but of course associate with that. But Mackinac Island, you're usually up at Mackinac on Labor Day.
Paul Keller: It's like my eighteenth year at Mackinac Island.
Michael Jewett: Well, now is that is that every year, or just about every year for Mackinac?
Paul Keller: Going on for a long, long time, I guess maybe 30 years.
Michael Jewett: Right. But you don't make it every year. You don't make it every year. But most often, you do.
Paul Keller: Oh, every year. Every year, I'm there on Labor Day weekend.
Michael Jewett: Oh, OK.
Paul Keller: Sara has been with me for ten years up there. She just celebrated her 10th year at the Grand Hotel.
Michael Jewett: Yeah. Okay.
Paul Keller: And this year was better than ever. Congratulations. Carla Rice and Fleming Associates from Ann Arbor. They put the whole thing together.
Michael Jewett: Well, I know I was looking. You know, I follow you on social media, and I'm thinking you got really, really great weather up there. It was kind of nice, if I'm not mistaken. All weekend long, right?
Paul Keller: Oh, it was beautiful. They gave me a beautiful room, and I got to meet some of my favorite musicians that I'd never met before. You know Kat Edmonson?
Michael Jewett: Oh, yeah. Well, I know her work. Yeah. Right.
Paul Keller: Oh, man. I fell in love with her through WEMU. And then, I got a chance to meet her this week. She reminds me of a little petite blossom dearie.
Michael Jewett: There you go. I'll go along with that. I'll go along with that. Indeed. Indeed.
Paul Keller: Yeah. We get off on tangent. It's easy to do that.
Michael Jewett: That's what, you know, you and it's just let's just, like, get together and start talking jazz and stuff. We're catching up with Paul Keller, bassist, bandleader. Big thing tonight. Big show tonight. It's the return of the Paul Keller Orchestra at the Zal Gaz Grotto Club with special guest Chuck Redd on vibes. They're going to downsize to a sextet. Paul, special guest Chuck Redd, Randy Napoleon, Sara D'Angelo, David Alvarez. I feel like I'm missing somebody. Adam Mosley.
Paul Keller: Adam Mosley.
Michael Jewett: Tomorrow night at the Kerrytown Concert House. And then this coming Friday, this Friday, Ron Brooks Day being celebrated at the Kerrytown Concert House with Paul Keller, Ron Brooks, special guests, everything. That happening as well at the Kerrytown Concert House. So, catching up indeed. Catching up indeed. Staying busy. Without a doubt. And you sound like you're doing well and everything. And it's just, I got to tell you, it is so great. You know, I'm still feeling great after the Detroit Jazz Festival and some other gigs. I've caught music and performance, you know? I mean, I love radio and I love my record collection, but catching live gigs, it's nothing quite like it. So, live music definitely happening. So, good deal.
Paul Keller: Aren't we lucky to live in this area where there's so many great opportunities to hear national and what a great scene. What a great local scene.
Michael Jewett: Oh, world class.
Paul Keller: Some fantastic musicians.
Michael Jewett: Yeah, world class.
Paul Keller: Detroit. Ann Arbor. Yeah.
Michael Jewett: Yeah. We are very lucky in that regard. Always a thrill. I feel like we're going to catch up. We should do this on a regular basis just because you stay busy and everything. I know I don't want to forecast too much ahead, but you know, holiday season and whatnot, I know you always get busy around that. So, we will catch up again in the future. But, big week this week with the return of the big band tonight at the Zal Gaz Grotto Club with special guest Chuck Redd. And then, special guest Chuck Redd, with a sextet tomorrow at the Kerrytown Concert House. And this Friday, yep, definitely big happening in Ann Arbor. Ron Brooks Day also with an event at the Kerrytown Concert House. Bassist and bandleader Paul Keller, thank you so much for catching up with us. And, hey, I will say it. You know, I know you're going to do it anyway, but keep swinging.
Paul Keller: Hey, man, thank you for inviting me. I'll chat with you anytime. I'm never at a loss for words when it comes to jazz and what's going on around our area.
Michael Jewett: And love you for it, man. Good deal. Paul Keller and the orchestra tonight in Ann Arbor. And here on 89 one WEMU.
Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support. Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.