Sumptuous Duo

Gillian Margot and Geoffrey Keezer play at the California Jazz Conservatory.


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Gillian Margot comes to Berkeley for a rare appearance.

Jacob Blickenstaff

With her thick, velvet voice and languid phrasing, Gillian Margot renders American songbook standards, rollicking blues, soul anthems, and pop songs as if each tune were a bespoke gown tailored precisely for the sumptuous contours of her sound.

Born in Toronto and nurtured by Ontario jazz luminaries like Oscar Peterson and Carol Welsman, she spent years performing with the Afro-centric Nathaniel Dett Chorale before coming under the sway of veteran pianist/arranger Norman Simmons, an ace accompanist known for his work with vocal stars like Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Anita O’Day, and Joe Williams.

Making a rare Bay Area appearance on Saturday, July 23, at the California Jazz Conservatory, she’s joining forces with another brilliant pianist, Geoffrey Keezer, who first made an impression as an improbably young looking teenager with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the late 1980s. He went on to tour and record prolifically with bass legend Ray Brown, and more recently served as the electro-acoustic fulcrum of bassist Christian McBride’s band for about a decade. He’s recorded more than a dozen albums of his own, but most of Keezer’s work in the Bay Area in recent years has been accompanying vocalists like Oakland’s superlative Kenny Washington and the late-blooming LA star Denise Donatelli (a collaboration that’s garnered several Grammy Award nominations).

Now based in San Diego, Margot and Keezer also work frequently together, though she’s still an under-the-radar presence, despite releasing one of 2015’s finest jazz vocal albums, Black Butterfly (Hipnotic Records). Produced by trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, the project features a bevy of top New York players who follow Margot on a stylistically wending path as she puts her stamp on material by the likes of Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield, Joni Mitchell, Rodgers and Hart, Bobby Caldwell, and the English rockers Simply Red.

Gillian Margot and Geoffrey Keezer, 8 p.m. July 23, $15; California Jazz Conservatory, 2087 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-845-5373, JazzSchool.com.

 

Editor's Note: This story appears in the July edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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