Keith Javors, born in DeSoto, Illinois, has been internationally recognized as a vibrant and eclecti
Keith Javors, born in DeSoto, Illinois, has been internationally recognized as a vibrant and eclectic piano player and producer. He returns to the region on Wednesday and Thursday, May 18 and 19 for two shows at the Newell House Grotto Lounge in support of his latest recording, The Meeting, which will be formally released on May 31; at the Grotto he’ll be joined by bassist Jim Wall and drummer Jim Goodwin.
Javors has won awards from Downbeat magazine for his playing and for his role as a composer, producer, and educator. He appears on several recordings on the label he runs, Inarhyme Records, which has produced a number of critically hailed albums. The Chicago Tribune praised Coming Together, where Javors played alongside Chris Potter, Steve Wilson, Terell Stafford, Delbert Felix and John Davis, as one of 2009’s most innovative recordings. Among other places you can also hear him: Rhyme and Reason, Mo’ City Jungle, The Free Project (as part of the American Music Project), and From Here to the Street. The forthcoming release The Meeting features Javors with Oleg Kireyev, Tom Harrel, Ben Williams, and E.J. Strickland.
Javors’s work is infused with a socially conscious outlook. In 2013 Inarhyme Records teamed up with the Los Angeles based organization Jail Guitar Doors to improve the lives of the incarcerated through music; specifically, they help inmates get access to musical instruments. Javors said of the organization founded by Wayne Kramer, Margaret Saadi Kramer, and Billy Bragg that “They’re leading great initiatives... to really improve our society and change many lives.”
This was noted by the Jazz Review, which wrote, “Perhaps Javors’s concern for the people he meets and his well-wishing for the world community at-large characterizes his work.”
Visit <http://www.KeithJavorsMusic.com> for more information.
Nightlife had a few words with Keith Javors.
So you’re from DeSoto and went to high school in Carbondale. Welcome back! It must be interesting to return to this area, a town so different from your current city, Philadelphia.
It’s a much different vibe for certain, but I’ve always loved where I come from; the warm and friendly people, the relaxed pace, the beauty. I have a special place in my heart for Southern Illinois. I moved away from the area when I was seventeen, but the people here are still some of my greatest fans and supporters. It takes a village to raise a child and that was true in my case: my family, friends, teachers, the community. They have all played a role in making me who I am today.
According to your bio you took an interest in music at an early age. I was curious what got you started and how you evolved into the piano player you are today.
According to my parents’ recollection, there was an old, defunct player piano in the house where I grew up, and at three I just started picking out television themes by ear on it. I played by ear for a few years before starting formal lessons at seven or eight. I consider the love and fascination I’ve always had for music to be a gift from God, and still feel the same way today. I’m just as excited, as fascinated with music and its innate power as I ever was and that hopefully keeps me growing.
You’ve played with a lot of great jazz musicians like Dave Brubeck and appeared on numerous albums. You manage the Inarhyme Records label where you show up in different duos and ensembles. So in all these collaborations, what forms of musical arrangements strike you the most? What are some of your favorite collaborations and shows?
That’s a tough one, as I have many favorite settings and it’s generally whatever one I’m involved in at the moment. But I see music as one of two things: Good or bad. And I don’t judge beyond that. I am a big fan of cross-pollination of styles and outside-the-box collaborations in general, and feel something really unique and special can come from those. And so with the label, we’re always looking for projects that are high-quality but go against the stylistic grain in some kind of way.
Any thoughts on playing as a trio at the Grotto? How much of a mix between standards and improvisation do you incorporate into your set?
I anticipate the Grotto will be a nice mix between jazz standards and originals. I’m looking forward to playing with Jim and Wayne again; they’re very supportive musicians with big ears, as we like to say in the business. I think there’ll be something for everyone. I try to present music that is challenging and fun for the musicians to play but that is, at the same time, accessible to the everyday listener.
You recorded with spoken-word/hip-hop artist D-Priest as part of the American Music Project. According to Jazz Times you’ve also had a nineteen-piece band. The Coming Together album featured a sextet in memoriam of your friend Brendan Romaneck. The new release The Meeting was recorded with a quintet. So you seem to be a jazz musician with a diverse range. Though some of your recordings have been hailed as being post-bop and it seems to be something that drives you as a player, you obviously reach beyond that.
It’s hard for me not to reach and take risks in music. Not only is it something my teachers and mentors instilled in me, but I grew up in a much different generation than, say, Miles Davis or Dizzy Gillespie, and so the influences are different. You could never replicate their greatness anyway. So I’m okay with letting my other tastes come through when possible and appropriate, anything from [rhythm and blues] and pop to rock and funk to gospel and even country.
What are your plans for the future?
Mostly, I’m looking forward to continuing to learn and develop, both as a human being and as a musician. In addition to touring and promoting The Meeting, I have a pop project with a fantastic vocalist named Jennifer Perryman that’s starting to come together and a new progressive-jazz record on the horizon as well. And then there’s the work with the label and producing other artists and running our programs. It really never ends, and I think that keeps me happy.
who: Keith Javors
where: Newell House Grotto Lounge
when: Wednesday and Thursday, May 18 and 19