Sunday, December 2, 2018

Keelan Dimick brings APA's Premiere Series to the halfway point

Keelan Dimick (from left), Nick Tucker, and Kenny Phelps engage a Premiere Series crowd.
Now living in Miami, Keelan Dimick has a beneficent form of "Iowa stubborn" in his makeup: He is a devotee of transcendental meditation — not an obvious foundation for a 27-year-old jazz pianist-composer.

Born in Fairfield in the Hawkeye State, Dimick is the third finalist this season to present two Premiere Series trio sets at the Jazz Kitchen on his way to the American Pianists Awards' "Discovery Week" in April, when the new Cole Porter Fellow will be selected and given a valuable career boost.

Freely acknowledging the gifts meditation has showered upon him, Dimick introduced several originals in the second set by crediting their creation to the practice. Fairfield, as he told the Indianapolis Star, is something of a TM center, and the pianist has been acquainted with the therapeutic/spiritual discipline since childhood.

Accompanied by bassist Nick Tucker and drummer Kenny Phelps, the pianist displayed a secure, flowing right-hand touch. He seems to be stingy with ornamentation for its own sake, but applies it selectively.  His rhythmic acuity was unfailing, and his range of inventiveness stayed broad yet efficient. The left hand typically lent harmonic support, but sometimes poked forward prominently as in "Deep in Cerebration."

That composition illustrated a characteristic freshness, particularly with its stop-start surprises and fondness for episodic form. Toward the end, he moved effortlessly into repetitive octave patterns of the kind often favored by Latin-style pianists.

His personalized approach to others' works — from a bebop classic to Joe Sample's "Street Life" — revealed a gift for adaptation that never meandered. His one unaccompanied solo, "All for One," was extensive but neatly turned out, a gentle samba flecked with harmonic eddies off the mainstream.

Dimick gave ample space to both sidemen and fed eagerly off their inspirations. The set finale was a whimsical medley opening with a couple of secular Christmas tunes and moving definitively into a substantial original, a tribute to the late piano master Mulgrew Miller.

Once again, the APA seems to have come up with a worthy contender for its next big jazz prize.

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